Why should I hire Gen Y? Employers ask me this question every day. Then they start in with their stories about people my age. One of my recent favorites: “I know all about employing your generation. Last year I hired a young guy right out of college. He had good grades and seemed like a hard worker. A week later I’m in the company bathroom and I hear him talking on his cell phone in a restroom stall. And his phone was on speaker! Even worse, he didn’t think he was doing anything wrong. He just kept talking and talking.”
Okay, I get it. My peers and I can be a little different when we enter the workplace (which is, on average, about 10 minutes later than you’d like). Sure, we show up to work with our iPod buds dangling out of our purse or backpack, and our ever-present cell phone is ringing loudly during the CEO’s Monday morning pep talk. Yes, many of us have a tattoo (or several); some of us sport nontraditional hair colors; and it’s not uncommon for us to have a piercing somewhere besides our ear lobes (and, no, it didn’t hurt much).
However, in my work consulting and speaking with business leaders around the world, I’ve seen time and again that Gen Y can deliver tremendous workplace performance and loyalty at a substantial value — when managed correctly. This combination could not have come at a better time, because the current economic climate is forcing companies to do more with less in an increasingly competitive business environment. It’s my belief — and I’ve seen it in action — that Gen Y can be the strategic differentiator you’ve been looking for to decrease your costs and grow your business.
Here are a few of the strengths that I’ve seen Gen Y bring to a workplace when managed correctly:
Outcome driven — By definition this means Gen Y is all about results (especially the kind we can brag about on Twitter). We want to see we are making ongoing progress and be a part of the solution. When you manage us based on results rather than a job description, we will focus all our energy on the outcomes you’ve deemed most critical to your business’ operations.
Tech aware — Gen Y has come of age immersed in technology that our grandparents only dreamed about (although it was our grandparents’ generation that created the engineering that led to the current technology). Gen Y’s comfort with technology can be an asset for companies that rely on technology to run their business as well as serve customers. One way to leverage Gen Y’s tech awareness is to ask us to test new technology you are considering for adoption.
Desire to prove — The huge expectations sometimes negatively associated with Gen Y’s entrance into the workplace can be a big value-add to a company when managed correctly. Harness this ambition by giving us the chance to temporarily take on larger responsibilities as well as short-term projects that stretch our skills. While it’s true we have much to learn, we also have a huge desire to show you (and our 5,000 friends on Facebook) what we can do. Let us. When you do, we both win.
Cost effective — In many places where I speak, Gen Y is the least expensive employee group to hire. Being less expensive by itself is not enough reason to hire Gen Y, but in combination with the timely skills and big aspirations we carry into the workforce, the potential ROI from our employment is significant. The key is to manage us correctly — what I call Y-Sizing your business.
To understand which steps to take, I interviewed executives, managers, and entrepreneurs around the world to learn the actions they have taken to successfully employ Gen Y. I share the best of these frontline tested actions in my new book,Y-Size Your Business: How Gen Y Employees Can Save You Money and Grow Your Business. Here are three Y-Size actions that will give you an immediate head start when employing Gen Y:
Y-Size Strategy 1) Make the first day at work unforgettable
Gen Y decides on our first day at work whether or not we can stay with an employer long term. To make the first day unforgettable all you have to do is welcome Gen Y with a handshake and a small box of our new business cards. This unexpected gesture sets the tone upfront that we are professionals — and that we must meet those expectations. And who is the first person we’re going to give our new business card to??? Our mom! And many of us will give it to her right when she picks us up . . .
Y-Size Strategy 2) Demonstrate the performance you expect
Gen Y is entering the workforce at a later age and with less real world training than previous generations. You can quickly bridge this skills gap, and in turn rapidly increase our workplace value, by providing us with specific examples of the performance you expect. The more specific the examples you provide, the easier it is for you to hold us accountable. And, no, business casual does not mean leather flip flops.
Y-Size Strategy 3) Check in so we stay tuned in
Gen Y seeks specific feedback about our performance every month. However, we don’t need an in-depth 360-degree evaluation. All we need is a quick 30-second check-in where you tell us what we are doing well and where we can improve. These quick interactions build our loyalty to you as our leader and are way more motivational than a gift card for a free car wash. After all, it’s hard for us to wash our scooter in a drive-through car wash.
For the complete Y-Size methodology, including 50 cost-effective ways to unlock Gen Y’s workplace performance, check out my new book, Y-Size Your Business: How Gen Y Employees Can Save You Money and Grow Your Business. You can download a free chapter at www.ysize.com.