Three Ways to Engage Gen Y Employees

March 6, 2015 Aubrey Chapnick

I am consistently confused by all the negativity that is associated with Gen Y employees in the workplace.  Sadly, this group of workers have been labeled as a self-absorbed, impatient and disloyal; and these misconceptions are playing a big role in the creation of new talent management practices across today’s organizations.

Leaders are struggling to understand the ways that they can attract and retain top talent from this generational segment and considering that these individuals are set to make up the majority of the workforce in the coming years, understanding how to engage Gen Y is of critical importance.

Here are 3 things that any organization can do to light up the Gen Ys in their organization in order to drive high performance,  keep them engaged and help facilitate interest in future leadership development opportunities.

Show Them the Plan

Gen Ys have been said to be particularly interested in the manner and pace of how they are going to progress inside of an organization. They were brought up taking their parent’s linear career paths as a model for their own progression and want to know where they are headed in the long term. As the traditional linear career trajectory doesn’t exist anymore, without a clear understanding of the way they are being developed by a company, many Gen Ys will become disengaged, less productive and more inclined to seek employment elsewhere. By giving your Gen Y talent an indication of where you see them progressing and how you can help them get there, you will be able build strong relationships of trust. Being honest about a Gen Y’s career progression will keep them motivated and focused throughout their development plans.

Ask Them to Participate

If a Gen Y is expressing interest in getting involved with more things, it might imply that they are genuinely curious about different aspects of your business. Don’t stifle their curiosity! By encouraging Gen Ys to explore different opportunities, you will be able to help them find a place within the organization where they can add the most value and excel. In addition, asking for a curious Gen Y’s opinion on something that is not directly related their specific expertise will make them feel more professionally valued and may also help you solve problems through non-conventional ways. Here are some questions to ask in order to encourage Gen Y participation:

  • I know you have expressed interest in getting involved with this project before so I’m curious about what you think regarding how it is coming together?
  • The VP asked me to do something that I know interests you, would you like to get involved in a supporting role?

Show That You Care

In order to be an effective leader, you must extend your skill set past technical mastery. As a leader, it is your job to understand the emotional aspects of working with others and furthermore, show that you actually care about your direct reports. Gen Ys may often seek out organizations who value them as both people and professionals.  As a leader, you cannot underestimate this reality. Displaying empathy towards your employee’s needs in general is one of the best ways towards becoming a better leader but it is a must if you are looking to unlock the discretionary effort of your Gen Y workforce.  Here are some questions to ask to show that you care:

  • I know you had some hesitation with this project when we first spoke. How is it progressing? Is there anything I can do to support you?
  • I know that things have been really crazy around here recently. How is the workload now? Is there anything that we can do together to make things go smoother?
  • When we last spoke, it seemed like you were a bit stressed out about something. Is there anything that I am missing that can help you get what you need from me or your teammates?
  • I want to help you succeed here, what can I do to get things off on the right track?

Although many feel that generational divides pose a difficult challenge for today’s organizations, it’s important to keep in mind that this gap in both age and experience is actually a fantastic opportunity. By bringing the diverse perspectives and infectious energy of younger workers together with the knowledge and expertise of older workers, today’s organizational landscape is being primed for positive reinvention. If you embrace what these new workers bring and coach them for success, there is no question that they will positively shape the next chapter of your organization’s story.

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