Revered and praised for being educated and proactive by some, and harshly labelled as self-centred and arrogant by others; the topic of Generation Y provides plenty of fuel for discussion in business, that much is for sure. Despite the ideas, theories, and even classes and training that have popped up everywhere over the last few years, there is still little clarity for managers on how to get to grips with this generation.
As a member of the seemingly complicated species of Generation Y, I was curious to open the mystery box and find out what’s inside. What drives this generation? What do they want in a manager? Which management practices are most effective for tapping into Generation Y’s true potential? And so I set out to unravel the mystery of Generation Y.
The answers I found are as surprising as they are obvious. The “5 Essentials” as I like to call them, are:
Paint the bigger picture. Where is the organisation heading and why is the work I’m doing meaningful and vital for achieving these objectives? Create a sense of contribution by defining clear goals and highlighting the connection between these goals and the overarching mission and vision.
While the WHAT - that is to say the goals and their connection to the larger objectives of the organisation - must be clear, we are asking for room to fill in HOW to get there. Our motivation and commitment will increase if we get the chance to determine the steps and actions we should take to achieve the objectives set. Give us real responsibility; ask us for our input and thoughts on complex, even strategic, matters and connect us to stakeholders at different levels.
However, because we are eager to take responsibility and will work hard, there is also a chance we will make mistakes. Embrace these mistakes and give us the freedom to learn from them.
The days of “if you don’t hear from me, you’re on the right track” are over. Only showing up at our desk when the shit hits the fan (if you’ll pardon my language) will simply start a negative spiral of self-doubt and insecurity. As our manager, we ask you to praise us and show appreciation when things are going well, so we can build on our strengths. But that doesn’t mean you have to treat us like delicate china when things aren’t going that well. Simply give us timely feedback (direct, specific and future-oriented) when we’re off track so that we can immediately correct the course.
In addition to this, take advantage of our thirst for knowledge. If I stop learning, I die. These words, or something along those lines, were once so wisely uttered by Faust, and they have never been more true. What we want from a manager is the opportunity to grow, the chance to make progress and to see that we’ve developed.
Leave the power play at home. We don’t want a manager who’s hiding his own insecurities by playing the “I am the boss” card. We also don’t expect you to be superman. What we really want is a manager who practices what he preaches. Someone who takes responsibility, who admits mistakes, and who stands by his word. We are looking for a mentor who connects with us and finds the right balance between sharing his wisdom and asking us those difficult questions that, when answered, help us find our own path.
We value flexibility. Flexibility with regards to working hours and work environment, but also with work content. We will gladly stay behind our desk until late at night if we also have the flexibility to plan a doctor’s appointment without having to book the day off. Equip us with the newest technology and we’ll work at home, in the car, or in the park when the sun is shining. And don’t forget to allow for variation in our job. But that doesn’t mean we want to run away from the dirty work. On the contrary, with the energy we gain from a diverse pallet of projects, we can check off the more administrative or operational tasks in no time.
You might be wondering at this point, if this is really specific to Generation Y when it seems to strike a chord with general human wants and needs. You’re right. So, the main conclusion I can draw, and at the same time, the main insight I want to share with you is: Look beyond the label of generation X, Y or Z and focus on managing the person instead.
What makes Generation Y unique is the fact that they’ve learned to openly request, maybe even demand these qualities in a manager. And that they have the guts to look for new challenges if they don’t feel these qualities are present in their current environment.
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