How to Attract and Retain the Generation Y Workforce

By Cheryl Stein
Monster Business Coach
Gen Y, for those of you that don’t know who and what there are, are generally the children of baby boomers born somewhere after 1980. This generation has been brought up in an age where information is immediately accessible, and have, for the most part, been brought up in a democratic household where they were consulted on issues that affected them. Their parents tried to give them everything they possibly could and often consulted them on how they felt about the decisions that were being made in the family.
These are people that have been brought up in the loop, having access to the information that affects their daily lives. Understanding that is a huge key in understanding how to deal with these people in the workplace.
We are about to see the baby boomer generation retire. They are all quickly approaching 65 and even if they stay at work for a little while longer, it won’t be for much longer.
Because the baby boomer generation had such an impact on the workplace because of their size, we are used to their style of work. They wanted security. They wanted a steady work life. They wanted to stay in one place. Those days will be gone when Gen Y takes their place.
We have already seen a shift in the way people feel about work with the entry of Gen X in the workplace. This generation that was born immediately after the baby boomers saw technological leaps that changed our expectation of what people should accomplish in a workday.
Generation X was changed by the invention of the personal computer and the cell phone. This caused workplace productivity to soar. You were no longer chained to a desk and could get work done wherever you were. While they were affected by these changes in the world, they were not born into the information age and that is the thing that makes all the difference between them and Gen Y.
In an interview with Gen Y expert Kate Markowsky, a Vancouver B.C native and Gen Y-er herself, Markowsky gives us all the information that people need to know to work well and understand this very influential generation of workers.
How is Gen Y different from other generations that have entered the workplace?
Gen Y ‘s focus is different in the workplace. What they want out of a job is different. Baby boomers wanted a safe career. People who are part of Gen Y pursue passion. Their focus is more about balance in life. They try to work out how they can make passion into a job because they know that they spend the majority of their time at work. This makes them more entrepreneurial about their careers. They see their career path as totally within their control. Their lifestyle is more important than their work and they expect enjoyment and personal pleasure in their careers.
What makes it difficult to work with them?
Gen Y have a sense of entitlement which is frustrating to people. They seem to believe that they should have everything that they want instantly. It could be misinterpreted. They are way more confident than previous generations. They have a constant need for development and want things quickly. They are used to instant communication and rewards. They don’t like to pay dues over long period of time. Older generations expected to work for a long time before getting anywhere. This generation believes it is possible to achieve great things in a very short time. This can make them very difficult to deal with in the workplace. They don’t have patience for the things that previous generations did.
How do you fix it?
It is very important to train people in inter-generational diversity. The more awareness you bring into organizations to learn about where each other is coming from the easier time everyone will have working together. It is important to teach why Gen Y is like that. Understanding can be built from teaching each other about the time and place that each generation was raised in.
Do you think the difficulties in the Canadian economy had an impact on how they behave in the workplace?
This was probably the first time that Gen Y thought twice about jumping ship when they were not totally satisfied with their work life. This was the first time that they were faced with a situation where there was a decrease in the number of available jobs. It caused them to put their passion on hold for a short period of time. It was a good lesson for them to learn.
Is there any training that you can give to people who work with Gen Y to make it easier for them to integrate in the workplace?
Gen Y has a deep respect for companies who are upfront and honest about their values. They need to know what their growth will be and expect constant communication on their career path and development. They expect to know what place they will have within the company.
This generation needs openness in the workplace that older generations didn’t.
They want to have access to workplace information much in the same way that they are able to instant message or Google anything that they want to say or know. If companies are aware of these needs and are able to provide them, the GenY ers will have no problem staying.
Diversity exists in many forms. People come from many different places and have many different points of view. Intergenerational differences are no different. When people are born in different times, they are influenced by different world events and have different points of view. Just like every other cultural difference, a little understanding goes a long way. Understand Gen Y and you will keep them for years. Forget to take the time to understand what makes them tick and they will be gone before you can blink an eye.