So you have gone through the arduous recruitment process and selected the perfect Generation Y candidate. They did a brilliant interview: intelligent, articulate and enthusiastic. You are totally sold on the idea that this individual is at the forefront of the technological revolution and will bring a whole new perspective to your workplace. They arrive for their first day but within a few short months you realise that this individual is not quite living up to your expectations. They question everything, want instant gratification and request an extended lunch break to accommodate a midday yoga class! But why, and what, if anything can be done about it?
Different generations have different social, economic and cultural contexts that influence how we behave. Working with Generation Y demands adaption. They are driven by progress and achievement and as managers we need to tap into that, not push against it. One of the main reasons Gen Y employees become demotivated and leave organisations is because of poor feedback, something that our own recent survey supports. 68% of Gen Y respondents indicated they receive feedback less than once a month, whilst 38% said they did not have any clear goals or targets set by their managers. This is a concern for a generation that craves instant feedback and reward. It is simply not enough. If we want to attract, retain and motivate our Gen Y employees then we need to address this, but how?
I am a big fan of the post-interview interview. By that I mean sitting down with your employee soon after they arrive and asking them “how do you like to be managed?” or even “what do you need from me as your manager to be able to perform at your best?” Generation Y are hungry for interaction and acknowledgement and this is a great way to kick that off. It also sets the scene for the future. Focus your discussion around feedback and communication as much as possible. What do they expect? How do they expect it? And what can you expect in return?
These employees need to know exactly what is required of them and receive plenty of feedback to let them know they are on track. For a long time quarterly and annual appraisals have been the norm but since the integration of Gen Y into the workplace this approach is fast becoming outdated. They are a generation that demand timely, engaging and instantaneous feedback so that they can correct mistakes and continually develop their knowledge and skills. They certainly don’t want to wait months or even a year for it.
Feedback does not necessarily need to be formal or structured, just present and consistent. Use multiple forms of communication for your feedback. Face to face reviews and e-mails are pretty common but only 25.6% of the Gen Ys who responded to our survey said they are encouraged to use other methods of communication in the workplace. Yet we know this is the social media generation. Can you utilise technology and provide feedback to your Gen Y employee using SMS, instant messaging or Twitter? If you don’t know how, ask them. They will certainly be able to help!
Remember, Generation Y are an ambitious lot. They want tangible results and are motivated by knowing they are making a contribution. Discuss this in your interview. Collaborate with your employee to set and agree targets, goals and deadlines. 30% of Gen Y survey respondents claimed to have no clear career progression path within their current organisation. Agreeing a plan, and linking goals and targets is crucial. Reviewing progress on a regular basis gives Gen Y employees a sense of purpose.
It is important that we get this feedback process pinned down as early as possible as it’s not only Generation Y employees that are demanding more from us. They are starting to influence their Generation X peers who see the added benefit of open communication with managers and want a similar approach themselves.
With this in mind, it is important not to generalise when it comes to giving feedback. What works for one Gen Y employee may not necessarily work for another (hence the ‘interview’) and that is even less likely when you start to consider the feedback requirements of Gen X. As managers it is important that we are open to some feedback of our own. If we collaborate with our workforce and deliver feedback in a way that works for them, and us, we can move towards building a high performing team that is motivated, ambitious and loyal.
Sarah Baker, Learning & Development Specialist, Righttrack Consultancy