Gen Y & Z: Should We Stay Here or Not? How to Win Them Over

When leaders ask, “How can I get Millennials and Gen Z motivated?” my first question is always, “What motivators are you using now?” Most often managers are using old school motivation and retention methods that worked for Baby Boomers or Gen X.  It should be no surprise then that 21 percent of Millennials left their jobs in the past year.

Gen Y & Z are motivated by money, but not in the same way that it motivates Gen Xers.  Millennials and NextGen, however, are motivated by authentic, relatable, cool experiences that utilize their talents and ideas.  These generations desire constant feedback – both positive and negative.  Accolades are easier to deliver, but honest corrections, such as how to fix a situation, better handle a customer, or what actions should have been taken, are a necessary part of the conversation when guiding and coaching Millennials/Next Gen toward deliverables.

Highly educated (22% hold Bachelor’s Degree or higher), these groups are very coachable. That said, you cannot stop at raising the error or addressing what was wrong; the full circle of learning occurs when you work beside them explaining how to improve their work product or correct the mistake for future occurrences. Some leaders have said, “This takes up a lot of my time.” Do you want to show them what you expect and explain the correction in great detail the first time, or keep repeating it over and over again? Isn’t that taking up the same amount of your time?  Is it not easier to say, “That’s unacceptable”, and clarify what is wrong so your staff understand how they can improve?  Without getting to the root cause of the error, you’ll never get buy-in and achieve optimum outcome.

Another added benefit of taking additional time to correct undesirable work habits or mistakes in the initial phase is that those employees can assist peers when faced with the same situation or don’t know the answer to a question.  It’s a train the trainer model. As a mentor, this saves you time in the long run.

What else motivates Echo Boomers and Globals and keeps them working for a company?  Show passion for your own work while providing insight into your struggles and triumphs along the way.  They need to get to know you as a person.  Whether you’re their colleague or supervisor, Gen Y/Z enjoys the social aspect of work, and while you don’t need to share every detail of your life, they need a glimpse into your personal world.  Echo Boomers and Globals visually share their lives on the internet, so understand their curiosity.  Even as young children they shared their thoughts on war, the world, and the environment.  They were asked their opinions by teachers or parents, and now as adults continually provide a constant stream of current viewpoints online. Why do we expect them not to want to share their views in the workplace, what they do outside of work or what their kids’ names are?  Y and Zers value communities of friends.  Don’t presume “Why?” as an indignant challenge of authority – it’s just an inquisitive mind that doesn’t accept everything at face value.  This can be a positive attribute.

Workplace flexibility and remote work options are not only important to Millennials and NextGen, but for all employees.  Flexible schedules allow for business to be done outside of normal 8-5 work hours.  Gen Y and Z have been shaped by technology.  Government workers and high tech companies have enabled their employees to work remotely for years.  Organizations need to recognize the productive results virtual employees add to a company.  Telework embraces expectations these generational employees have, and it’s a common expectation.  The change in the way we work is here and for you to continue to attract Echo Boomers and Globals, you need to accept it.

Next, acknowledge Gen Y/Zers as serious contributors and set the bar high.  These employees want to take on new challenges, but if you dis them as not knowing anything, you won’t propel them past their own self-doubt and uncertainty.  Common remarks from managers are:

  • They have book smarts, but no work experience
  • They think they know it all
  • They believe they should be a manager without putting in the time and hard work

The Millennials and NextGeners I work with are not slackers.  While they approach problem-solving and address workplace issues inherently differently than Baby Boomers or Gen Xers, we can all learn from one another.  An estimated 10,000 Baby Boomers retire each day, leaving many workers in their 20’s as “rising stars”. By 2020, Generation Y will comprise 50% of the workforce, and Generation Z will make up 20%. Discuss with Gen Y/Z employees ways to develop their dreams into actionable plans and invest in their futures.  Help grow their careers no matter what they want to do with their lives.  Inspire them.

Let’s be realistic: most Millennials or Globals are not going to work for the same manager more than 2-3 years.  In the time they do work for you, demonstrate patience, provide valuable relevant insight and ask them to soak up everything your company has to offer.  As a bonus, find ways to offer more than money.  GenY/Zers are now the most diverse generations in the U.S. population and many have studied or traveled abroad.  They expect interesting workplaces.  Rewards such as gift cards, free coffee, mobile work stations, tuition assistance, student loan reimbursements, philanthropic causes or extra time off to pursue other interests are good perks to start with.  Gyms, lounges, climbing walls, and juice bars are greater perks. Flexible workspaces foster creativity and collaboration.  How about offering an afternoon party with prizes, or a day where you bring in new technology and construct a “playground” filled with stress balls and toys?  Incentives, rewards and recognitions build a healthy spirit of competitive advantage for your firm.

Whatever your business can offer beyond a paycheck generates fresh thinking and new solutions. Make it a fair, open, friendly and fun environment to work in.  Gen Y & Z employees value organizations that have a personality.  How are you keeping them interested in the larger vision? What do you stand for? What does your brand mean? How does the environment express the organizational culture? Keep the company mission and vision clear and transparent. Encouragement of free flowing ideas while inspiring everyone to do their best creates a corporate climate which breeds success.

These generations are anything but boring, and they thrive when they know what’s in it for them.  They need a purpose. Embrace their entrepreneurial thinking; make teamwork fun while still keeping the workplace efficient and productive in line with company goals.  You’ll be surprised how flexible work arrangements, engaging their talents and implementing collaborative group thinking can create an environment where Gen Y and Z will want to stay.

©Karen Casanovas, Senior Associate for The Growth Company. Share your management advice or direct questions to Karen@thegrowthcompany.com  For more information or leadership training courses:  thegrowthcompany.com or follow her @KarenCasanovas, @thegrowcomp, or follow TGC on Facebook: TheGrowthCompany, Inc. Ms. Casanovas also posts organizational strategies, communication and conflict solutions on: workplacecoachblog.com

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