Gen Y and Your Workplace (from our ‘Ask the Expert’ column in The Voice)

Q:  I have hired a younger employee and they do not get the way the world works.  When I was their age I worked long hours and was willing to do every task given to me.  What is wrong with this generation?

A: The presence of the youngest generation currently in the workforce, Generation Y, has caused many employers to scratch their heads.  There is nothing ‘wrong’ with this generation, it is just that they refuse to accept the current workplace norms just because they are the workplace norms.

The situation is not unlike when women started entering the workforce in large numbers.  Suddenly there was a rash of ‘women’s issues’ like parental leave and caregiver leave.  At the time it seemed like an impossible change to many employers but in reality it was a simple adjustment that benefited male and female employees alike.  Adapting to the needs of Generation Y is no different; the changes they are demanding will in fact positively impact everyone in the workplace.  Examples of these changes are:

•    A shift from managing by hours to deliverables – why do office organizations still have a punch clock mentality when the work performed is nothing like a factory environment?  Focus on what needs to be accomplished and manage by deliverables.  A work day should be about what you achieved not whether you worked 8 consecutive hours.

•    Add Flexibility – similar to the point above, don’t force someone to work a firm schedule unless it is a requirement of the job (e.g. receptionist, security guard).  Allowing employees to complete assigned tasks on their schedule within required deadlines can dramatically increase both productivity and engagement.

Most important are changes regarding communications.   Ask your employees what they want from their work environment.  This is a win-win proposition.  Remember happy employees work harder!

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