I was having a debate with my partner in the local watering hole last night about him frequently working late. His response was “If you want to be successful in your career then you have to put the hours in”. He often jokes about my constant strive for the ‘elusive work-life balance’ whilst I disagree, my motto has always been ‘work smarter not harder’. In my opinion you do not need to be sat at your desk 16 hours a day to be effective, in fact if you are, you might be the complete opposite.
You see my partner and I are from different workplace generations, he is firmly in Generation X whilst I on the other hand am Generation Y. We both have very strong work ethics but we choose to demonstrate them in different ways. That got me thinking about some of the different jobs and managers I have had over the years and the differences in our approach to work, some of which have resulted in some very enthusiastic exchanges. But why? After all there has been a lot written about how different workplace generations can work more effectively together, so are we practising what we preach so to speak?
We did a survey recently (view the full results here) that suggested in some aspects Gen X managers are starting to adapt to the requirements of their Gen Y employees. 82% of our respondents were clear about how their role contributes to achieving the organisational strategy and 78% said that they have regular opportunities to engage with senior management within their organisation. There is still room for improvement here but the feedback suggests that things are moving in the right direction. Surprisingly however, only 62% of respondents said that their managers gave them clear goals and targets whilst 74% receive feedback on a monthly basis or less. We know that slow turn around in feedback and communication is the fastest way to loose Generation Y employees with high potential so there is still a lot of progress that needs to be made in this area.
Some Gen X-ers may be reading this and thinking “so what? Why should I change everything I do just to accommodate them?” I’m not sure I would go as far as saying ‘change everything’… for me it’s more about collaboration and communication. Agree or not Gen Y will soon be responsible for developing, driving and leading economics around the world… without wanting to sound cliché they are the future and organisations are keen to attract and retain the very best this generation has to offer. When considering how to manage and motivate Generation Y employees remember the following –
It needs to be prompt, regular, engaging and consistent. Feedback does not necessarily need to be formal but it is important that it is timely. This gives Gen Y-ers the opportunity to correct mistakes whilst constantly learning and developing skills and knowledge. What’s in it for you? Consistent, high quality performance. Gen Y-ers are happy to put in the effort as long as you are willing to feedback and acknowledge it.
The need to be flexible as a manager is important for all generations, but even more so for Generation Y. Focus on outcomes instead of desk hours and allow Gen Y the flexibility to produce higher quality, faster results. Consider alternatives to the standard 9-5 such as working from home, flexible working hours, extended lunch breaks, or even… sabbaticals
From freedom of choice and expression to the freedom to be creative and innovative. Give your Gen Y employee the opportunity to explore their own ideas and methods to achieve results. This does not mean that you should not guide them or give them structure, after all some processes are in place for a very good reason… because they work. Encourage open and honest dialogue and engage employees in decision making processes, if you can, give geographical freedom… can you utilise their skills for projects abroad??
As managers commitment to the practical application of the above points, instead of simply ‘ticking boxes’, will not only benefit your Generation Y employees but ultimately your workforce as a whole.