Don’t Be Afraid of Gen Y: Millennials Could Be Your Greatest Asset

The misconceptions about Generation Y are well known, and have been written about often. Yet, they’re still so pervasive it’s easy to see why so many people still believe them.

What is true is that, to some degree, this demographic has created a new playbook for employers. Organizations that take the time to figure them out instead of working from common misconceptions can build a loyal, dynamic workforce that delivers great results. Those that don’t will end up wondering why their staff has no work ethic.

Here are 3 common misconceptions about Gen Y that will stop you from making the most of your staff:

  1. Work environments aren’t that important

    Wrong! Your corporate culture is more important to Gen Y than you may think. This is a group that wants to make an impact and cares about the community outside of the workplace. A strong community investment program and a commitment to corporate social responsibility will go a long way with this group. They want something to contribute to, something that aligns with their personal values.

  2. What work ethic?

    It’s true that Gen Y values personal time. But that doesn’t mean they won’t put in the extra hours. They’re motivated by challenge and creativity, and when they have it they thrive—and they’ll work hard to achieve results. Remember that Gen Y is goal oriented and you need to keep their work as interesting and varied as you can. When they change jobs, it is usually because they are bored and need new challenges, and often feel a lack of respect and direction from management.

  3. Low salaries are acceptable

    It’s true that money talks and your Gen Y employees will be talking to each other about the money they are (or aren’t) making at your organization. They are market savvy and know competitive salaries. If you want to retain these employees long term, make sure your salaries are in the market. Provide the tools they need for success and career advancement, and offer professional development opportunities to help them learn new skills, get new certifications and expand their knowledge base.

And now, some stereotypes that are true: flexibility is currency to Gen Y. They want to work for a company that offers flexible work hours, a fun work environment, diversity of projects, a competitive salary as well as career growth, and learning and travel opportunities. This demographic has a better sense of work-life balance and highly values their personal lives and families. Flexible hours, the option to work from home and generous flex time will help to build loyalty.

One of the greatest challenges for managers is to understand that hierarchy isn’t as built into their mindset as it is in generations past. Lead horizontally. If you want respect from Gen Y workers, you have to give it. Encourage open collaboration and communication throughout your organization. Encourage the power of connecting and focus on the critical role and contribution that every individual makes in creating a successful company.

Shannon Bowen-Smed is president and CEO of BOWEN Workforce Solutions, which creates customized solutions for businesses, such as flexible workforce management and transactional human resource services. Read her company blog at Bowenworks.ca.

More columns by Shannon Bowen-Smed

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