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Gen Y in the Workplace: Leveraging Its Tech-Savvy

What are the concerns with Gen Y in the Workplace? How can these generational differences be leveraged? Experts shared with us their experiences and perspectives.

by Rachelle Dragani

Generational Differences

The crowd that gathered to discuss Gen Y in the Workplace: Leveraging Its Tech-Savvy to Achieve Efficiencies in Your Company at a recent Red Shoe Movement Signature event could be divided into two categories:

Gen Y in the Workplace: Leveraging Its Tech-Savvy

Gen Y in the Workplace: Leveraging Its Tech-Savvy

1) The Gen Y-ers, those born after 1980, eager to use social media and the latest digital technology to promote their companies, build loyal clients and foster worldwide connections, all from their phones or computers.

2) The Gen X-ers and Baby Boomers, those born between early 1960s to the early 1980s and between 1946 and 1964, respectively, with more years of work experience under their belts and an understanding of the power that technology can have in making or breaking a company.

Regardless of the generational differences between these two groups, their shared primary challenge was keeping up with the rapidly evolving tech scene. Generation X and Baby Boomers were eager to leverage the increasing size of Generation Y in the workplace as a conduit to improve efficiencies in their companies.

The concerns with Gen Y in the Wokplace

“I understand that’s the way everything is moving, and I know there is a lot to learn from Gen Y in the workplace,” said Kendra Bradley from Siempre Mujer. “But we weren’t brought up with iPhones and this much technology, and it is really frustrating to try desperately to keep up with this whole other world.”

Some Generation X/Baby Boomers were also frustrated that there were no universal laws for using social media. They felt it was tough for them to learn more about the positive benefits of new technology when protocols differed so greatly between industries.

Samantha Heron, who works in finance at MetLife, pointed out that in an industry as private as finance, almost all information needs to be kept under wraps. Even a seemingly innocent Tweet such as “Got takeout in the office cuz I’m working super late tonight on a big project!!!” could tip off competitors or reporters that something big – an acquisition, executive turnover, a new account – could be in the works.  Once information slips, a possible deal could go south.

Gen Y in the Workplace: Helping them to see value of face-to-face connection

Gen Y in the Workplace - Understanding Generational Differences

Gen Y in the Workplace – Understanding Generational Differences

Kary Takach spoke up about her experiences in the hospitality industry at Andaz Wall Street. She understood the importance of embracing technology in her industry, especially to help foster loyalty among guests and ensure they choose her hotel again when they come back into town. She noted, though, that in a business like hospitality, sometimes nothing can replace the comfort that comes with face-to-face interaction. It’s a reminder that she has had to give to some of her younger, iPhone-addicted employees.

The Gen Y-ers in the room were receptive to Gen X /Baby Boomers’ concerns. As a matter of fact. a few even acknowledged how overwhelmed they often feel with the daily appearance of new tech apps, even though they’ve grown up embracing the latest gadgets, platforms and ways to connect.

What Gen Y in the workplace can learn: Appropriate use of social media

The Gen Y-ers present also agreed that for every brilliant Tweet or Facebook post, there are probably ten more useless ones, and sorting through the sludge of the Internet can be exhausting.   A few admitted that they and their colleagues had some harsh reality checks when one of their seemingly innocent social media posts spun out of their control, garnering unwanted attention.

Despite any generational differences, both groups at the event agreed that each generation had plenty to learn from the other. The more experienced professionals could help the Gen Y-ers (especially the ones that thought Tweeting out a picture of their morning coffee was a productive use of time) determine what belonged on public social media accounts, and what information needed to be kept private. It’s a lesson that too many young workers have had to learn the hard way. They agreed that older colleagues shouldn’t be afraid to create very specific rules about what can and can’t be shared publicly, and then enforce punishments if certain info is still leaked.

What Gen X/Baby Boomers can learn from Gen Y-ers

It was generally accepted that Gen Y-ers now had a chance to become the experts in their places of work. They could help their colleagues understand the ins and outs of managing a social media account, discover compelling and informational online contacts and dream up new ways to reach out to clients via the web— All invaluable strategies that should be enough to set generational differences aside as they could greatly benefit the bottom line of the organization.

Most importantly, “neither side can profess to know it all,” said one of the Experts who asked to remain anonymous.  “I know I’m on top of my game for what I do, but someone can easily come up behind me representing the new pinnacle of talent and achievement,” she pointed out. “I know I need to take a step back and see how Gen Y-ers can help me in my long-term growth, just as I am teaching them. One of the hardest parts is making your own standards and rules for what gets put out there, and sometimes you just have to step away from the computer and figure it all out.”

Managing Generation Y in the Workplace: How Can Managers Motivate Their Employees?

The secrets to managing Gen Y in the workplace

The secrets to managing Gen Y in the workplace

When it comes to managing Generation Y in the Workplace (Millennials), one of the most frequently asked questions is: How can managers motivate their employees? —These young, hyper-connected, multi-screened, don’t-want-to-pay-my-dues employees who share the workspace (when they agree to come to the office) with older generations.

Funny enough I don’t seem to have a problem with this idiosyncratic lot. They are smart, exciting, have an unprecedented ability to learn new things fast, to be in touch with what’s going on in the world, and a passion for making an impact in society. And their connectivity doesn’t only mean their smart phones are an extension of their arms, it also means they are global citizens who don’t see race, ethnicity, sexual orientation or even geography the same way their parents do. They have a deeper sense of how connected all humanity is, how one’s actions have an effect in someone else’s life, even when that someone lives thousands of miles away.

The 6 Secrets to Managing Generation Y in the Workplace

There are six secrets to effectively managing Generation Y in the workplace:

  1. Leverage all they have to offer and allow them to impact you and the way you work rather than trying to push them to conform to what the workplace looked like when they entered it.
  2. Learn from them as much as you want them to learn from you.
  3. Give them their own project with specific guidelines on outcomes and deadlines and then give them as much freedom to manage the project as possible. Have checkpoints to make sure they are on task but avoid being the helicopter parent they grew up with.
  4. Invite them to offer their own ideas on how things can be done differently to obtain better results, and then implement as many of their ideas as feasible.
  5. Provide as much work flexibility as possible. If there’s no compelling argument to have them physically in the office 9:00-5:00 PM, let them work from wherever they want.
  6. Treat them with the respect they expect and deserve.
Generation Y in the workforce

4 Key strategies to Engage Generation Y in the workforce

How can managers motivate their employees and strategies that work

But we all know that managing Generation Y in the workplace is only part of the deal. What’s more challenging is to motivate these employees, to engage them with your company in such a powerful way that they don’t feel the need to jump to your competition. It’s been said that loyalty is not one of this generation’s strong suits but I disagree. Here are a four key strategies that have worked wonders for me.

  1. Find out what their personal and their professional goals are and make sure to align them with the projects you assign to them. It is in this alignment that you’ll tap into their passion and their loyalty for the work they do and by extension, to you.
  2. Offer public recognition for their contributions and whenever possible, offer additional awards such as certificates, special opportunities, etc. as part of such recognition.
  3. Provide plum opportunities or assignments to those in your team who excel at what they do. It could be to meet executives in the organization that can function as career sponsors, or attendance to conferences your employees are particularly interested in (even when they don’t relate to the work they do for you.)
  4. Support the causes that are important to them. This is a generation that is involved in many causes outside work. Find a way to tap into that involvement by either providing financial support, time off to attend to activities related to that cause, or even having your company partner with some of the organizations your employees value most.

The best part about working with Millennials is that they are hard working, creative and passionate people. When you start implementing these very simple strategies suddenly managing Generation Y in the workplace becomes the most rewarding part of your day. Suddenly you realize that you have been looking at this group the wrong way and that they are your most loyal employees, your best brand Ambassadors who will promote your company without you even asking.