Much has been written on why Gen Y, Gen X and Boomers are different.  A lot can be put down to the environment in which Gen Y’s started their careers, having experienced 15 years of continuous, positive economic environment and only now experiencing their first recession over the last four years. Prior to the GFC, Gen Ys wanted to move jobs regularly and recognition and ambition were important elements of their work environment.

However, post-GFC, the reduction in employment opportunities and flexible work options has altered many Gen Y opinions. In an i4CP survey a change of attitude was discernable, with 65% of respondents wanting job security. Additionally:

  • 33% planned to extend working hours
  • 30 % planned to take on more job responsibility and help fellow workers
  • 44% ranked job security above job advancement

However, it is important to note that Gen Ys still value:

  • Flexibility and work on their terms
  • Feeling valued and receiving continuous recognition and feedback
  • Being challenged
  • Working in a fun environment

For managers of Gen Ys, it’s also important to be aware that they often resist formal structures and wish to have a more informal relationship with you. Being cognisant of what they seek and value can help you to successfully manage, and motivate them. Strategies to employ might include the following:

  • Understand the way the various generations work and identify communication preferences
  • Explain clearly to them what is expected of them
  • Explain the big picture so they understand their role in the business
  • Provide regular feedback and self development training initiatives so they continually learn
  • Focus on their strengths and allow flexibility
  • Consider reverse mentoring where they can mentor an older employee (who is perhaps new to the Company) to gain a better understanding of other generations

Gen Ys are tomorrow’s leaders and we need to recognise and develop them as they have many positive attributes. They:

  • Adapt to change more readily than older employees
  • Are able to cope with rapidly changing technologies
  • Can adapt to organisational restructuring and changing career paths

It’s also important to realise that the skills shortage in Australia hasn’t gone away – it just took a brief holiday during the GFC. One of Australia’s biggest challenges over the next decade will be finding adequate skilled workers.

Upon reflection, perhaps Gen Ys are really not much different than when the Boomers were young; after all, Mozart didn’t know that he was too young to write a composition at age five and Mark Zuckerberg didn’t realise he was too young to invent Facebook at age 20.

With understanding and the capacity to develop and bring out the best in them, we have a lot to be confident about with our next generation of leaders.