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How to motivate Gen Y employees

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Generation Y, the iPod generation, echo boomers however you describe them, this new wave of employees is steadily filtering into the workplace. Born to baby boomers, many are recent graduates and students aged around 18-30 years old and it is this generation that will soon be at the heart of a company, leading it forward into the future.

How can you get the most out of this generation?

1. Know its defining characteristics

Compared to Generation X, people in this group are more likely to put their careers first, postponing marriage and children. They are the social media generation who like to be connected at all times. Socialising, both actual and virtual, is a top priority.

Instant gratification and a hunger for immediate information mean they often resent waiting, something applicable to both their professional and personal life. They often choose to find jobs on a short-term basis, are keen to always remain aware of new opportunities that will help to improve their skill set, and will happily change jobs in order to achieve this. These factors combined mean that retention rates are likely to be lower in this generation and that employers may find they need to work harder to keep them.

2. Adopt a tailored approach

To motivate, engage and inspire people it is naturally important to apply different techniques and approaches depending on various aspects, such as age, sex, geographic location, likes and interests.

Reward and recognition schemes should be tailored to include the needs of Generation Y. But what is it that will have the desired effect in terms of motivating them, and how can employers strive to ensure they get it right”

3. Provide ongoing communication and feedback

Generation Y employees have a strong need for feedback and respond well to this. They are keen to learn new skills and work on their personal improvement; therefore an excellent way to engage them is with training and development opportunities. Furthermore, the inclusion of games and an entertaining approach can also prove beneficial in obtaining and maintaining their interest.

The implementation of an employee recognition programme targeted at younger employees should consider these points and offer opportunities to provide regular feedback and report on any activities undertaken to help immerse them completely. The digital generation is accustomed to being able to access information via social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter on an anytime, anywhere basis and they are keen to communicate what they themselves are doing via the internet. This need for constant digital communication (indeed affirmation) can prove very appealing, and therefore successful when incorporated within an employee engagement scheme for this age group. 

4. Ensure the aims are attainable 

Goal setting helps to measure and assess the performance of employees and will support faster progression. Goals therefore need to be attainable. Generation Y typically responds well to deadlines and smaller but more frequent objectives, as this helps to maintain their attention.

While ensuring that goals are realistic, tasks should be stimulating. Growing up in a technologically dominated world, surrounded by television, and the fast pace of film and gaming consoles means that Generation Y may have concentration spans that wane easily, hence they often flourish when handling several projects simultaneously. Slower projects which lack variety may not be enough to challenge them and the result may be a lack of motivation.

One for all incentive programmes will not be effective for this group and should be replaced by flexible incentive programmes, or micro motivation. 

5. Motivate future talent 

Motivational programmes will help satisfy the need for career development by Generation Y and show them that they can progress within the company. Think about what rewards they will be motivated by, translate your 1-2-1 consumer communications strategy to this audience and focus efforts now on attracting and retaining this group; those organisations that do will cement a strong position for the future.

John Sylvester is executive director at P&MM Motivation.



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