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Generation Y in the Workplace: Engage and Inspire

written by: Anne Vize•edited by: Michele McDonough•updated: 7/27/2010

Engaging and inspiring Generation Y in the workplace can be quite a challenge, especially if you are not savvy with the latest iPod and Bluetooth technology. So how do you go about employing, and then keeping, a Generation Y worker in today's competitive employment market?

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    So Who is Generation Y?

    So who exactly are these Generation Y workers, and what do we know about them? Depending on who you ask, Generation Y members are those young folk born between around 1979 and 1990. Aged mostly under thirty, this generation uses technology like nothing the world has ever seen before.

    Born with a mobile device in one hand and a hands-free kit in the other, this generation can text their life story in a rapid flash of thumb movements before Gen Xers and Baby Boomers have even worked out how to find their mobile phone address book. From a world view perspective, this generation has seen some rapid changes when it comes to things like climate change and world security. The innocence of being excited about color television and man walking on the moon is long gone, and for Gen Y, it is ancient history.

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    And How Do We Employ Them And Keep Them Happy?

    Generation Y in the workplace have gained themselves something of a reputation when it comes to being satisfied with their lot in life and work. They are cohorts who are reputed to want everything yesterday and are not prepared to wait. This tendency extends to climbing the corporate ladder, where Generation Y workers are inclined to want to hustle straight to the top rather than adopting the "do your time" strategy of earlier generations.

    But be prepared for Generation Y to be a fickle group in the workplace, too. They are just as likely to decide that the grass is greener elsewhere or that they are driven to volunteer the next few years of their life to help those in far flung places. They may well decide that the best way to relieve workplace stress is simply to leave completely. No sooner have you employed them, spending masses of dollars in advertising and training, they may be off to find satisfaction elsewhere.

    So some of the answers to employing and keeping Generation Y workers in any workplace are to do some of the following:

    • Engage them in meaningful conversations about the planning process for workplace activities such as team projects and significant events.
    • Be prepared to lead from within rather than adopting an autocratic or dictatorial style of leadership.
    • Take the time to ask your Generation Y workers what they think about a situation, and listen carefully to what they say.
    • Offer opportunities for change and diversification of job roles through mentoring, job sharing, easy transfer processes and short bursts at other workplace location.
    • Expect the unexpected and be ready for replacing staff if the situation arises.
    • Look for a range of ways that you can package up salary, hours of work, annual leave and other bonuses such as performance payments or gym memberships or time in lieu that may attract and help you retain these younger workers, as well as keep them motivated and on task.
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    An Individual Approach

    As with many workers, sometimes the best strategy for employing Generation Y in the workplace is to take an individual approach. Whether you believe absolutely in the existence of generational characteristics, or you are a bit of a non believer when it comes to cohorts and trends, it may be true that the best philosophy is to treat every worker as an individual and be prepared to do what you can to meet their individual needs.