December 2, 2014

How Generation Y can benefit your business

While many are divided over Generation Y, these young people can bring unique benefits to your business. Futurist, demographer and social commentator Mark McCrindle explains how, and shares his tips on how to make them valuable members of your team.

Generation Y’s reputation can sometimes take a bit of a hit. “It’s easy to dismiss them as demanding, disloyal and entitled because, in some ways, that’s a fair picture,” says Mark McCrindle, Principal of Australian research agency, McCrindle. “But a lot of those characteristics are typical of youth in general rather than Gen Y in particular. I’m sure a lot of Baby Boomers and Gen X-ers were a bit like that themselves at the start of their careers.”

It’s also a reflection of their world. “Gen Y includes people who were born between 1981 and 1994, so it’s both the most formally-educated generation we’ve ever seen and the most digitally savvy,” McCrindle continues. “They’ve also grown up in an era where, in some areas, an ageing workforce is creating more openings than there are people to fill them.

“These factors have shaped their expectations, and what could be perceived as lack of loyalty or lack of traditional values is often nothing more than a response to the new realities of business life.”

Important benefits

Yes, Gen Y can have a different approach to working life, but this can bring important benefits. “A workforce that encompasses a range of experiences and approaches is more likely to be innovative and good at solving problems – and generational diversity is as important as gender and cultural diversity,” says McCrindle. “Also, the more the workplace reflects the community at large, the easier it is to communicate with clients, customers and suppliers. As Gen Y represents more than a fifth of the population, it makes good business sense to include them in the team.”

They have the latest educational qualifications and unmatched digital skills, and their youth and lack of experience can be strengths in themselves. “They haven’t been processed into a structured mindset, so they think in more innovative ways,” McCrindle says.

For many business owners, the biggest concern is how quickly they’re likely to move on. “You certainly can’t build an effective team if you have constant churn,” says McCrindle. “But

Gen Y-ers don’t automatically job hop. They’re definitely more prepared than previous generations to keep moving until they find what they’re looking for – but when they do, they’re just as happy to stay around.”

So what is Gen Y looking for?

McCrindle suggests the top five things your business can offer to attract and retain Gen Y.

  1. Work-life balance: Work is an important part of their life but not their whole life. Where possible, be flexible. Give them an opportunity to travel, complete their studies or pursue a hobby.
  2. Workplace community: Gen Y values a collegial environment more than any other generation. Offer a workplace that’s focused on teamwork and interaction rather than working independently on task-related goals.
  3. A collaborative management style: While earlier generations took a ‘command and control’ model for granted, Gen Y expect to question, make suggestions and participate rather than simply do what they’re told.
  4.  Training and opportunities: If they feel they’re building a career, Gen Y are likely to stay. Offer them opportunities to improve their skills and move ahead or they’ll probably look elsewhere.
  5. Non-monetary benefits: While money is always important, Gen Y are unlikely to jump ship for a few extra dollars if they’re being paid fairly. So consider rewarding them with recognition, time off in lieu and a sense that they’re valued to help build genuine loyalty with your business.

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