Leading Generation Y – Are You Ready for the Challenge?

In this article, we look at strategies for managing Gen Yers. The questions we address are:

Who are Generation Y?
Following the post-war Baby Boomers and their immediate predecessors Generation X, the Gen Yers began to arrive mid ‘80s and so are now entering the workplace in their droves. A range of economic and social influences have been identified as having shaped the attitudes, beliefs and expectations of this still emerging generation. A period of largely sustained economic growth; the rapid development of accessible IT; increased focus on building young people’s self esteem in areas other than their academic success, both within education and the family; the intense media-saturation of the era and; the fact that this is the most cross-cultural generation yet, are some of the most cited factors defining the Gen Yers’ experience and outlook, both the good and the bad.

How can the I.D. System™ help me manage the Gen Yers in my team?
While an understanding of the influences shaping the Gen Yers’ world can be of great value to you as a leader, these largely explain common behaviours such as a demand for the newest and best in IT and a notable assertiveness in communicating personal skills and abilities as compared with their predecessors. What they don’t do is give you any insight into what innately motivates the Gen Yers in your team. The I.D. System reveals that this latest generation displays the same diversity of Instinctive Drives as their predecessors. Therefore, discovering the I.D.s of your Gen Yers will enable you to identify what it is they need as individuals to perform at their best and so partner with them to fulfill the hopes and expectations motivated by both their I.D. and shaped by the unique characteristics of the era into which they have been born.

How can I tailor-make reward packages to attract and retain the best Gen Yers in the first place?
eremy Finn was really excited when he was given responsibility for heading up a new project team tasked with designing and delivering a cutting edge IT solution for one of his organisation’s most prestigious clients. He recognised an amazing opportunity to showcase his leadership abilities and set out with great enthusiasm to acquire a talented team to ensure the outstanding success of the project. He immediately reached out to a few of his colleagues; experienced hands with a wealth of technical know-how and ready-established relationships with the client. He then identified what he thought was missing in terms of the team’s skill set and worked with HR and a specialist consultancy to draw up a longlist of mouth wateringly talented, savvy Gen Yers that would ensure the razor sharp, newer-than-new angle that he would need to make the solution a real wow. In heaven at the prospect of such a hungry field, all ready to snap his hand off to be involved in such a sexy project – and about to be bowled over by the salary on offer, he was stunned when part way through the recruitment process his first few successful candidates knocked him back and for reasons such as: ‘ The salary is OK, (OK!?!) but the whole package isn’t so hot’; ‘Yeh, the money’s great but what’s the point of having all that money to pay for skiing and having so little time off to ski?’; ‘ The project totally excites me but what would come next?’ Times, thinks Jeremy head in hands, have definitely changed…

The heightened self-esteem, IT wizardry and optimism about the economy of the Gen Yers have resulted in expectations of reward packages that can make the jaw drop. Foremost, Gen Yers will be seeking work that they will find intrinsically meaningful, but negotiation on the rewards for doing it, along with their conditions of work, will be their next focus. You should take the ability to provide all the latest tools and technology to get the job done as a given pre-requisite, along with the provision of high quality training and development opportunities. Also recognize that for Gen Yers talk around working hours, leave and work-life balance will arise from a belief that both self-esteem and personal fulfillment are very far from being dependant on the job that they have. And, when it comes to discussions about actual pay and benefits, these will focus more than ever on the now rather than promises about what will be on offer later.

From an I.D. perspective, what range of factors will help to develop and sell a reward package geared to the Instinctive Drives of individuals?
Instinctive Drive to Verify™

Present a fair deal, one which reflects market trends but also takes into account their specific qualifications and experience to date. The method of awarding bonuses must also be seen as fair e.g. to clearly give greater rewards to those who achieve more rather then be a ‘given’ for everyone.

Driven to Avoid the Instinct to Verify™

They’ll look at what their peer group is earning and what benefits they’re receiving rather than making specific comparisons with the salaries of those they work with or the rest of the employees within their particular organisation. Once you’ve made the decision that you want them on your team don’t then expect them to justify, or see the justification why, they deserve the package you’re offering. They will also see opportunities to pursue relevant qualifications to help establish their credentials to others will also be considered important.

Instinctive Drive to Authenticate™

Be clear about what is available immediately and what conditions apply to achieving subsequent rewards and benefits. Deliver what you promised whether that’s on paper or not. Discussions about future rewards will amount to verbal contracts and will be expected to play out in reality and not just in an ideal situation.

Driven to Avoid the Instinct to Authenticate™

Focus on opportunities where they can leverage the efforts of others to achieve results and rewards for doing so e.g. in a team situation. Ask them what the ideal structure of their reward package would be and look to negotiate round this.

Instinctive Drive to Complete™

Focus on the whole package i.e. the salary, working conditions and additional benefits. They will also play out the scenario of: what if I did stay with this company a while? and so longer term opportunities will also be of interest to them.

Driven to Avoid the Instinct to Complete™

Options and flexibility will be the key. Give them a menu of choices when it comes to rewards e.g. bonuses in the form of cash or extra leave or other incentives – and make it possible to change options, by request, at any time, rather than only at scheduled times.

Instinctive Drive to Improvise™

Include a stretch element to any bonus scheme so that there’s something with a high ‘wow’ factor e.g. an exciting holiday if a really impossible target is met.

Driven to Avoid the Instinct to Improvise™

Offering a basic salary that covers their essential expenditure is vital to providing the security that will allow them to work at their best, and subsequently step up and work towards achieving any bonuses. Also focus on medical and other insurance benefits available.

How can I ensure that the work my Gen Yers do will bring out the best in them?
After getting a bit more imaginative with the reward packages on offer, Jeremy got most of the team in place and the project off the ground. Meanwhile, as part of an in-company leadership programme he completed his I.D. Questionnaire and discovered his drive to avoid the Instinct to Complete and his Instinct to Improvise (5537). He looked around the newer members of his team and thought he could see a lot of similarities between their style and his: ready to pioneer, wanting to run before they could walk, really impatient to push the boundaries. Yet, it’s wasn’t long before the differences in the newcomers began to show up, which in some cases began to make Jeremy wonder if he’d made the right recruitment decisions. Take Neil Kirk for instance, who had blown them away with his presentation at the second interview stage. Just last Friday, Jeremy called him into the office to do a quick run through on a key part of the project for a member of the client team who had just dropped by. Alarmingly Neil just seemed to crumble and Jeremy ended up doing most of the talking himself. Then there was Jenny Corrigan whose ideas in the brainstorming sessions were just sensational, as was her ability to hit the ground running with new stuff. However, when it came to the physical graft needed on the follow through she went completely off the boil. (He reluctantly recognised a bit of himself in this!) Jeremy also picked up on some water-cooler talk about Paula Redford not feeling she was being fully utilised. He knows he’s not using all her skills and experience yet, but she can hardly say she’s not busy! Some of his initial enthusiasm for this team is definitely beginning to wane.

Much of the Gen Yers expectations around the nature of the work they do will be shaped by their seemingly endless thirst for the next new experience and challenge – perceived by many as a result of being bombarded by the media’s obsession with the latest thing alongside a fascination with TV and computer games that has allegedly limited their attention span. However, when involving them with the pioneering work they crave, insights into their individual Instinctive Drives will assist you to harness their energy for things bigger and better in a way that best meets their specific needs.

Instinctive Drive to Verify™

Get them involved in problem solving and innovation within teams where they will perceive themselves as working with the best so they can be both sharing and developing their own expertise.

Driven to Avoid the Instinct to Verify™

Involve them in teams where their input will be recognised and valued, regardless of their current qualifications and levels of skill and experience.

Instinctive Drive to Authenticate™

Assign them projects that will fully utilise their knowledge, skills and experience. No matter how new and exciting a project is, if they don’t feel useful they won’t get motivated.

Driven to Avoid the Instinct to Authenticate™

Where possible look to involve them in work that may have some connection with their philosophical or deeper interests. Identify projects where they can contribute the necessary mental effort to shape the project’s direction and where others can follow through with the operational doing.

Instinctive Drive to Complete™

Involve them in roles where they can restore order to chaos e.g. where a project has slipped or has too many loose ends and needs to be got back on track to ensure success. Let them know up front this is why their talents are required.

Driven to Avoid the Instinct to Complete™

They will be in their element working on pioneering projects and developing the plan as they go. They’ll work best on projects where that they can start and get results and finish quickly. Help them stay motivated on longer term projects by chunking them up into smaller sections so that they can continually feel that they are starting something new.

Instinctive Drive to Improvise™

Ensure they get to work with others with a similar need for positive energy. Look to involve them in high impact projects where the results will be seen to impact on their personal credibility and where there’s an element of the: Is this really possible? connected to the outcomes.

Driven to Avoid the Instinct to Improvise™

Recognise they can make their strongest contribution to innovative projects when they have the opportunity to think through ideas in their own time. Advanced notice will allow them to bring their best ideas to the table. Use their talent to identify and cover off risks.

How can I ensure the Gen Yers in my team step up and show accountability for achieving their goals and objectives?
Three months into the project Jeremy Finn arranged a one to one performance interview with each of the team. The project was basically on track but there’d been a lot of ups and downs on the way and he was particularly keen to get the team to step up and hold themselves more accountable to deadlines without so much painful chasing on his part. Not shy in coming forward, by the end of the process, the younger members of the team left him feeling like it was his performance that was under scrutiny! Jane Trueman began by telling him that a lack of clarity around current priorities was driving her crazy and anyway, how on earth was she supposed to keep improving if Jeremy waited 3 months to tell her how she was doing?

Next, Heather Francis asked him what it was exactly she was supposed to be accountable to given that he was in the habit of moving the goalposts every two minutes and only occasionally getting round to telling her. Worst of all Matt Davison all but told Jeremy that he’d been lied to around his role within the project! At this point, feeling drained and confused he decides to get the go-ahead the whole team to complete their I.D. Questionnaire and is able to discover the reason for many of the challenges around individual and team performance.

Well the good news is that fundamentally Gen Yers are intent on delivering a level of performance that matches their salary expectations. Their journey through a changing education system has already exposed them to a performance culture and set them up to receive reward for achievement rather than as a given. Never having experienced the job for life scenario they are also keenly aware that under-performance can have definite consequences.

However, they have previously had much of their time governed by the demands of school and parents rather than managing it themselves and, while most Gen Yers will have had some previous work experience, they’ll be about to play at a whole new level. Getting them to show accountability and to step up and be proactive in driving their own performance will require input and coaching from you as their leader. Insights into their I.D. will help you to do this in a way that work will best for the individual.

Instinctive Drive to Verify™

Clearly demonstrate the purpose of all goals and objectives and indicate the business priorities, especially to ensure progress on those that may seem less new and interesting. Provide lots of feedback on performance and expect to provide coaching and other ways of training and development to help them rapidly increase their expertise.

Driven to Avoid the Instinct to Verify™

Give lots of encouragement and focus any feedback on delivering even better results next time. Load them up with answers so they can run quickly – they don’t need the level of detail required to work it all out and verify things for themselves.

Instinctive Drive to Authenticate™

Remember that any instructions from you will be taken literally so when you’re looking for performance above and beyond the literal – spell it out. When business goals change communicate this directly including what this now means in terms of their input and efforts. Don’t assume this will be obvious.

Driven to Avoid the Instinct to Authenticate™

Show them where progress and follow through with individual objectives will help them to gain leverage with other projects. Also help them to make links with the personal goals that may have deeper meaning for them e.g. delivering on objectives to achieve a bonus that will enable them to fulfill a personal dream outside the workplace.

Instinctive Drive to Complete™

Check-in that they’re keeping abreast of changes and developments that will amend the original goal and game plan. Communicate any changes you are aware of as early as possible and assist them to create a new plan in line with these. Explain the reasons for changing goal posts and show how these fit into the bigger picture.

Driven to Avoid the Instinct to Complete™

Ensure there are simple and quick systems in place for them to check-in with you on their progress or for you to chase them to do so. Get clear with them on the priorities as it will always be the new and exciting projects that will be grabbing their attention regardless of their priority status.

Instinctive Drive to Improvise™

Play up the wow factor, or big impact, of what they are doing and get excited with them. For them, your energy is contagious and will propel them forward. Just remember to give them additional doses (either through yourself or through another team member) to ensure their energy stays high.

Driven to Avoid the Instinctive Drive to Improvise™

They are naturally driven to deliver as promised but in order to keep them moving at speed, especially where they are also driven with the Instinct to Verify™ , help them avoid analysis paralysis by indicating when something is good enough and where there are risks associated with not moving at pace.

How can I ensure the Baby Boomers and Gen Xers in my team can work effectively with the Generation Y?
The more experienced members of your team are going to have a key role to play in mentoring and coaching the Gen Yers – not just on the technical parts of their roles but with regard to developing their people and influencing skills and getting to grips with the organisational landscape and key stakeholders. Fully acknowledge the importance of the team’s role in growing individuals and incorporate responsibilities in this area into goals and objectives for those who are seeking to develop their leadership skills. Knowledge of the I.D. of all your team will help you to work out how your new Gen Y members can be adding maximum benefit to your team’s profile, performance and productivity.

Knowledge of the I.D. of all your team will help you to work out how your new Gen Y members can be adding maximum benefit to your team’s profile, performance and productivity.