It’s often said that kids today aren’t what they used to be. But is this next generation of young workers really so different than previous generations? Some of the factors that have influenced today’s young workers are:
• They had to fend for themselves as latchkey kids, so they don’t buy into being bossed around.
• They saw company-loyal parents put out of work in downsizings, so they’re more interested in their own personal career gains, instead of the employer’s.
• They were raised on TV, MTV, and in a culture of immediacy, so they like entertainment but don’t stay in one place very long.
Many of us are left with the impression that young workers are slackers, irresponsible, and just want to have fun. Out of sheer frustration, some employers and managers try to avoid hiring young workers altogether. But this only leaves employers in short supply of people to fill entry-level positions. If you hire under-30 workers and can’t handle them because they are different, you’ve got a problem. They are the next generation of workers, and like it or not, they are here to stay and you need to be able to manage and motivate them.
Let me debunk the media-generated myths about this generation. With the right motivation, this is a generation that is energetic, creative, enthusiastic, and ready to contribute. If this were a generation of slackers, then small businesses, retail outlets, and restaurants would be going out of business in droves. Many managers and owners have been very successful in getting the most out of young workers. I have seen countless success stories. The challenge is that this generation is different, and many employers haven’t figured out how to manage those differences.
Hire the right people
Every generation is wary of the generation that follows it. There is always fear, apprehension, and misunderstanding. By understanding the next generation we can hire the right employees and manage them effectively. Get better at hiring them. If you keep on doing what you’ve been doing, you will continue to get what you have always gotten! Read books or attend seminars on recruiting, interviewing, and hiring. Anything you do to improve your ability to hire is better than what you are doing now.
Accept young workers
The first thing to remember is that this is the next generation. Accept them and learn to work with them rather than fighting with them. It’s a lot easier. Showing that you don’t like them only creates conflict and turnover.
Use love and caring
Show that you truly care about them. They often didn’t get this from their own parents and need to know that they matter. But be careful. Young workers hate anything that smacks of phoniness.
Don’t baby young workers
Young workers want the care and concern yet don’t want to be babied. They want you to guide them, but they also want to be seen as independent self-starters. Don’t baby them, but do be a surrogate parent to them.
Communication is critical
It’s critical to write out your expected responsibilities and policies. Try using written agreements and contracts. This generation is used to doing this with their parents and teachers. Communicate the critical behaviours you want to see displayed on the job. When you lay out clear expectations and goals, they can’t come back and say “it’s not my job.”
Support young workers
Show your support for their personal situations. This is a difficult time for young people. Many don’t have anyone who will listen to them. Be flexible with your scheduling. Many young workers are in school and need the time to study and graduate. They also need some free time just to have fun.
Make work fun
Learn to make work as fun as possible. Sales contests and games work very well with this group. Have friendly competitions between individuals or teams for predetermined goals.
Reward and recognize
The last area critical to managing young workers is to reward and recognize them for exceptional behaviour. If people go above and beyond what is required, be sure to recognize it in words or actions, and reward them appropriately. Give them rewards that are meaningful to them.
Being able to change is tough. The employers that make changes in their management style for today’s young workers will be the ones with less turnover, fewer hiring setbacks, and more profit for their business. These changes must be made because this is the workforce of tomorrow.
Bob Losyk, M.Ed., M.B.A., C.S.P., is a seasoned professional with over 17 years of speaking experience, and over 20 years of service, sales, and top-level management expertise. His programs are highly interactive and bristle with contagious energy and enthusiasm. He delivers customized keynotes and seminars with impact and humour. For additional information: www.boblosyk.com