Engaging Generation Y: Keys to Managing & Motivating this Dynamic Group

Julie Checknita, Employer Services | October-19-11


Engaging Gen Y


Over the years, there has been much talk around generational differences in the workplace, specifically around understanding and motivating these different generations. In the recent few years, much emphasis has been placed on “Generation Y”. Also called millennials, this group grew up influenced by the globalization of economies and cultures, the advancements of communication technology and by the rapid spread of information via the Internet.

In the following article, guest blogger and president of SP Maloney Corp, Steve Maloney, shares his insight and experience with this large and dynamic group of employees.     


What to do with the talented new grad in the corner is a refrain thought by many environmental employers. Some middle age managers are calling them the entitlement generation, as they seem to have no interest in paying their dues before they receive the big money along with all the perks that go with it. But what would you think about an employee who could do things that no one else in the office could do, tasks that were deemed to be vital to achieving corporate success. Maybe it just requires some creative managing to untap the power that lies within. Engaging your generation Y employees starts with a re-orientation of yourself and taking the time to understand their needs, desires and values. 


Generation Y can be defined as those born after 1982 and for the most part are still very early in their professional careers. They grew up on laptops, playing video games, using PDA’s and standing in line at Future Shop for the latest gadgets. The one thing they have in common with all previous employee generations is the need to be understood by their employers. Environmental employers can benefit greatly by understanding their unique characteristics.


A client of mine, the president of a Burlington, Ontario energy management company employs four generation Y’ers in his own small business and marvels at the way they are able to employ their tech savvy skills. Company communications such as brochures, proposals, power point presentations and other forms of literature seem to come natural to them. Nothing leaves the office before he has his young team work their magic and his company is greatly benefitting from their talents.


Many generation Y employees crave the feeling of being on a team and thinking that their role is critical to team success. Unfortunately, many employers fail to properly utilize this talented group and instead shunt them off to a corner, give them menial tasks and expect them to figure out job satisfaction on their own. What these employers fail to realize, is that putting them at a desk unsupervised with a computer, phone, internet and email is a recipe for failure.


I recently worked on a project with an Ontario based law firm where one of the objectives was to kick start a young lawyer’s career. On the surface this young professional had everything going for him; a law degree, an ivy school education, a strong entrepreneurial family background, good looks and a general likeability.


So what was the problem? There was a great disconnect between what he thought he was bringing to the firm to what others perceived him to be bringing. The first step the managing partner had me take was to conduct a 360 feedback evaluation on him that involved gathering feedback from everyone in the office including partners, associates, support staff and himself.


The results showed that he had two major blind spots that were crippling his professional growth - taking initiative and understanding the need for the company to generate revenues and profits. They were easily recognizable as blind spots, as in some cases, his own scores were 50% higher than what everyone else had rated him. He had no idea that this was the case. When I asked him how he felt about the low peer scores he dejectedly said that when he was hired he was given an office, phone and computer and was then basically thrown to the wolves. Day after day he would come into the office and listen to the office banter on how everybody else was busy with files and deadlines, yet there he was, sitting in the corner, without anything meaningful to do. His Ivy League education never taught him how to feel part of the team. In this case, the story has a happy ending. As the result of the feedback process, the managing director was able to recognize his various strengths and as a result, his remuneration package and role were changed to better align with his strengths.


One of the best ways for employers to train young protégés is to incorporate a mentorship program within the company. Creating a mentorship culture has benefits for all parties involved. The protégé will likely find the company and job more interesting and be more engaged if taught by a senior person. As a result, they will learn more, and once they do, they will be more apt to stay. The mentor will learn from the mentee and will feel flattered - seeing that their skills are still valued. Many successful people have a deep secret yearning of one day “being a teacher”.  


Ultimately, environmental employers need to implement more effective ways to communicate with their generation Y employees. Their strategies need to include tempering their youthful exuberance and exploiting their many and attractive talents. Generation Y employees now make up the fastest growing segment of the workforce and will be taking over from the wave of baby boomers who are set to retire. The investment will be worth it.


Need help creating a Mentorship Program? Check out ECO Canada’s Mentorship Package. This detailed package guides you in creating a mentorship program within your organization by breaking the process down into 8 easy-to-follow steps. All necessary templates and resources are provided.


For more great HR Templates, guides and resources check out the HR Centre.