Motivating Generation Y: Horses for Courses or Courses for Horses?

Published on: Tue 10 March 2015 by Admin

We’re all used to the old adage ‘Horses for Courses’. I’ve always found there to be something quite nice about people being compared to horses. They are sleek and graceful and that’s how I imagine myself (other people may have significant grounds with which to disagree!)

But recently I realised that, despite whatever people may feel about being compared to horses or horses in general, this idea is outmoded and in need of supersession.

I’ve been doing some research into the subject of Generation Y and motivation. Generation Y consist of those of us who were born between 1980 and 2000 and have developed quite a unique set of characteristics that have set us apart from our predecessors to a marked degree. Our predecessors consist of Traditionalists who were born before the War, Baby Boomers who were born after the War during a period of great optimism and Generation X, the ‘slacker’ generation of punks who went on to change the world. But this blog is not about their characteristics, so we’ll save that for another time.

Today is about Generation Y. Members of this generation will, on the whole, not remember a time when the internet or mobile phones did not exist and this alone makes for a brand new breed of person. They have become accustomed to an ‘instant access’ culture. If they want something or someone, they can get it, providing it is on planet earth, that is. They grew up during the credit boom of the late 80s and 90s and early 00s and this has shaped their psyche as a consumer.  Consumerism and the dreaded credit culture blossomed while this generation were coming of age, their attitudes fed by and in turn feeding the spiralling credit crisis. Ironically the resultant credit crash is now shaping the characteristics of Generation Z, the new kids on the block who are currently still going to school while their families struggle to make ends meet.

But there’s another telling aspect of Generation Y, who let’s not forget, the oldest of which will be 33 and the youngest of which are moving into the senior years of their schooling. Meaning they have been saturating the workforce for over ten years and have already started moving into more senior positions. The parents of Generation Y; the Baby Boomers and Generation X of the world, decided – in a world that could afford them a few more luxuries following the end of the war – that the Traditionalist parenting style with which they were raised was out. The Traditionalist idea that parents should be seen as authority figures, not to be questioned by their offspring, was no more. ‘Children should be seen and not heard’ fast became a bygone phrase of a bygone era (although, I must admit, my parents did try it on me once or twice while despairing at the lack of peace and quiet in a house with four children.) But on the whole, when parents weren’t in moments of desperation such as mine often experienced, they decided they wanted to take a different approach. They wanted to be friends and mentors to their brood, consulting them on choices and gently coaching them into the realities of a modern world.

Rather than being told where they would go on holiday, Generation Y became used to being asked where they would want to go. Instead of being turfed out of the house once they finished school, Generation Y have had the opportunity to stick around until they were really sure which career path they wanted to take.

What does this mean for employers, and what on earth does this have to do with horses? Well, all this instant access and endless choice has made Generation Y the ‘Me-generation’. We expect all elements of our life to be tailored to our choices or needs. This isn’t something to be sneered at; it’s the way we’ve been raised. Incidentally, and also intriguingly, Generation Y is also the ‘We-generation’ in equal measure. Social media and awareness of our social responsibility (remember the Greenpeace of the 80s and today’s talk of Fair-Trade?) has made us a generation that not only expect to be treated as individuals and have every element of our life catered to (how many options do we have for mobile phone contracts, for example) but also a generation that will happily collaborate and work as a team.

This means that as employers, not only should we be choosing our horses for our courses, but in order to motivate Generation Y employees, we should also be choosing our courses for our horses. Aligning tasks, projects, jobs and even training to the preferences of the individuals we have in our employ is a sure-fire way to a motivated and energised team. It’s a modern view and it aligns to the expectations of Generation Y. How do we get to the bottom of the preferences of our workers? Ah, now there is a topic for another time and another place! For now let me close by saying if you really want to keep your horses happy, follow the new adage: ‘Courses for Horses’.

If you’re interested in this subject then please feel free to contact me for more information.

RightTrack Consultancy offer the first course in the UK that exclusively addresses the challenge of managing Generation Y – Managing Millennials: The Generation That’s Shaking Up The Workforce