The Key to Generation Y - Beyond The Foosball Table



Dorottya Nagy-Józsa, Founder of Y2Y Business Coaching has been working with Gen Ys for 15 years. Beside them, under them, over them, with them. All her coaching clients are Gen Ys, all coaches in the business are Gen Ys, and all clients of our all coaches are Gen Ys. In the last few years there seems to be a huge balloon developing over this whole generation.


There are heaps of trainings and workshops about how WE should be treated. How to nourish us. Office designers put foosball tables all around the place and ergonomists make plans of meeting rooms filled with colourful balls.- Dorottya Nagy-Józsa, Y2Y Business Coaching.

As if it had anything to do with how to keep a Gen Y.

There is one thing seems to be forgotten. All of our clients complain about the same thing. No, it is not about missing the foosball table. It is about that they are not given responsibility. And this issue does not belong neither to the HR, nor to the designer of the tailor-made office or to the organisational adviser, but to the professional leader. They are the key.

The forthcoming list is a general description, like everything that summarizes the characteristics of a whole generation. I held a speech about this topic a few weeks ago at a conference, older people congratulated and thanked me in person, and younger ones reached out to me on messenger and viber, and kept on asking me how I knew all about this.

They kept on nodding throughout my whole speech. I appreciated the feedback. Being a Gen Y myself, I love feedback.

I know all about this because we made our choice to work with Gen Ys only, so that we would be able to draw conclusions. We had and have SMEs, start-ups, multinational companies, lawyers, software engineers, logistics clerks, finance and HR managers amongst our clientele. Whatever profession or sector they are from the topics are the same. The same four issues are raised, which all could have been sorted out. And it would not be too difficult to solve them, just someone should make a try.

One thing stands out of the list of four: responsibility. This is what they miss the most.

So, how to keep a Gen Y? How they/we can be motivated? Just a list of 4.

 

1. SUCCESSION

Succession planning, this is the first. This is the foundation. I know why I am sitting here, I know where I am heading. I worked as a leader at a multinational company, I know what it means to be obliged by HR to fill in an A3 sheet full of tiny little empty squares. Deadline is the day after tomorrow.

You simply choose a high flyer employee and fill all the squares with his/her name. Form submitted in time, no more questions.

This is not succession planning. For someone from a generation, whose members get upset if there is no next morning delivery option when they submit they purchase order at Tesco at 10pm at night, this is simply not enough. If I cannot see where I am heading I leave. That’s it. We are impatient, agile, and honestly, do not have a lot to lose. Vast majority of Gen Ys still lives with their parents.

What could an employee lose by resigning if they had started filling their company cars with petrol far before they ever bought washing powder on their own?

Hierarchy, team leader positions, at least in a project-system. Although nowadays traditional organisational structures are not the most common ones, motivation is a problem in flat, loose, new organisations as well. Gen Ys are working in these new structures as well. Burn-out, demotivated Gen Ys. No one can keep them without providing them a vision, tied to deadlines and milestones.

 

2. PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY

They miss this so much! They are eager to have it, and it is no surprise. There are organisations, where there are 40 people in the same position and even their leader does not know who is doing what. 9 out of 10 Gen Ys come up with this in the first coaching session: I would like to do something that has a result recognised by my leaders. And that they would give me feedback. None of this is done.

Leaders do not trust Gen Ys, they see them as children. The Gen Xs and the older Gen Ys (like me) should understand, that the performance of an employee is not affected by the fact, that taking a photo about their latte to share on Instagram takes 22 minutes.

Being a digital native has advantages and disadvantages but these are part of us. These are generational characteristics. We can make our choice to accept and learn to live with these or find peace with losing our employees every 1-2 years. The latter results in having no successor in our company and we would spend millions to hire new employees. Let’s learn to trust them, give them responsibility. They can handle.

 

3. FEEDBACK

Neither I am a psychologist nor a generation-researcher, but still can see the correlation between the child, unable to leave the nurturing family home, and the helpless young employee feeling lost. For most of the companies it is a success to have yearly personal development review.

While those, who were born after 1980, do not want this.

They want monthly feedback. Weekly. Daily. Continuous feedback and encouragement. And they do not need nice words wrapped up as sandwiches, they can handle critics. They need feedback. Day by day I hear the complaints of leaders, that they do not like this childcare mentality, they do not have time to comfort someone each day. However, they will have to.

Gen Ys are like petunia. If you water them each day they will turn into a beautiful, full-blown miracle. Forgetting about them for only one day turns them into a dried plant, in the very middle of your lounge. Or office. Wasting your money.

4. FLEXIBILITY

Flexible working hours, flexible job, flexible place of work. They need flexibility in everything. There is nothing they hate more than having their hands tied. They are incredibly quick, and even more creative, but they need time and space. They cannot work without these two. We have quite a few clients who are on the verge of quitting simply because they need to be at the office by 9am. The previous generation just laughs at them, many have survived, they say. And yes, they are right.

I would like to point out though, that many have survived not going to the workplace one day, or even ever. Because they can work from home. They have laptops, WiFi, intellect, and they even feel responsible. If you can awake this in them.

This generation does not work from 8am-5pm. Although there are roles where flexibility is not an option, the number of these is low, but still too many places require fix working hours.

There is not much more motivational for a Gen Y than to be able to walk out to the park for 1.5 hours and have a non-alcoholic beer. Yes, in the morning. Yes, during working hours. They stay long in the evening, they work at night and on the weekends. Why cannot they go? Because we are not used to do it. Is this an argument?

Visiting workshops and learning how to handle Gen Ys would not help. It is not about the free muesli bar, foosball table, or employer branding.

Well, actually it is. Only AFTER those 4 issues have been already solved. Until then it is just like throwing money out of the window.

The change will not happen within a day. Not at a company of 30 thousand employees, and not even at a 3-men-business. However, it is high time to start at least. As famous Mark Twain said: 

Habit is habit, and not to be flung out of the window by any man, but coaxed down-stairs one step at a time.


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