Gen Y employees present challenges, opportunities
The generation of people born between 1982 and 1995 — sometimes called Generation Y — often is tagged as a self-entitled group raised during prosperous economic times, placed on pedestals by their doting baby boomer parents.
In the context of the workplace, they often are viewed by their managers as overly ambitious dreamers who do not want to pay their dues and are concerned only with higher pay and more time off.
This generation has been raised in a world where they can customize everything — from the way they listen to music to the way they buy coffee — and they want a workplace that allows them to do the same. In other words, what Deloitte calls the corporate lattice model is a better fit for Gen Y than the corporate ladder.
The way employers respond to the unique characteristics of Gen Y will determine whether they can tap this hidden powerhouse of employee potential in a time of tight budgets — or lose them to the competition. Companies that ignore the expectations of Gen Y will find themselves spending far too much time and money on turnover.
But those that recognize and address the differences between what businesses have always required and what Gen Y demands will find themselves with a committed, loyal work force that is ready, willing and able to perform. Even in the midst of economic uncertainty, Gen Y employees remain optimistic, future-oriented, ready to contribute and opportunity-driven. Employers need to harness these traits to drive growth and innovation through the recovery and years to come.
Therefore, Gen Y presents both huge opportunities and challenges for today’s employers in the following areas:
• Demographics. Organizations that may have been struggling to become diverse and inclusive will be delighted to find that Gen Y needs no convincing about the benefits of diversity. While some in older generations struggle with increased diversity, the young workers of Gen Y expect it.
• Training and development. The young workers of Gen Y value meaningful development opportunities and organizations that emphasize career enhancement — and they are open to newer modalities, like virtual classrooms, tele-classrooms and e-learning.
• Flexibility. While Gen Y chafes at the rigidity imposed by professional regulations in some industries, companies can and must offer them a degree of personal freedom in planning and pursuing their careers, as well as determining when and where work gets done.
The kinds of career development opportunities Gen Y asks for require significant rethinking of how companies are set up, how work is designed, and how people are managed and rewarded — all of which are likely based on the outdated corporate ladder model, rather than the corporate lattice.
Gen Y is a highly collaborative generation. They have been trained to work in teams — so encourage and respect their contributions. In turn, they will prize the opportunity to work closely with, and learn from, more-seasoned professionals.
Let them know they are valued, and you will engage their loyalty and, to a degree, their patience.
Ron Rickles is the New Jersey managing partner for Deloitte & Touche LLP.