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Stop complaining and start working with your Gen Y (a book review)

Reading the book, Turning Gen Y On, by Marion Neubronner gave me a new perspective on the idiosyncrasies of a generation weaned on fast speed internet and shaped by technology.

If you are a Gen X in a leadership position, I highly recommend this book so that you can stop lamenting on Gen Y’s attitude to work (and life).

Here’s a quick calibration for you, as Marion has described in her book.

You, the Gen X

When you were young, meals were prepared fresh in the kitchen. It was probably your mum who cooked it. Meals were had at the dining table, with family. The elders were served first, at least in the Asian culture. You played games that you made yourself. Outings with friends were at the beach, or over a game of soccer. Our cult heroes were middle-aged men like. Think Rocky and McGuyvver. Your first flight out for a holiday was probably in your mid to late twenties.

Now think of your Gen Y.

They grew up eating out. Fast-serve meals were the order of the day. They play solo online games, meet at comfy cafes and started traveling from a young age. Their cult heroes are young. Think Hunger Games and Harry Potter.

The Millenials associate research with Google. Gen X associated research with going to the library and searching for books sourced out from card indexes! That took real effort, didn’t it?

In short, Gen Y grew up in a world with more options which they get assess to with less effort. Their reality is filled with instant gratifications.

Is it any wonder that they would expect working life to be just as easy as they experienced growing up? It is not their fault. Civilisation has evolved since you were last 21 years of age. There’s no turning back.

Instead of lamenting at how the new generation of employees is less motivated, start thinking about how they are motivated differently from your generation. Marion offers a great many tips in the book on how you can push the right buttons to activate Gen Y’s buttons at the workplace.

Marion & Dean
Marion & Dean

Here are four insights I got from Marion’s book:

1. Woo them right

If you want to get to the right Gen Y candidate, you need to relook at your recruitment habits. The Millenials wants to do more than just a job. They want to be part of something bigger than themselves. They want meaning in their work.

Does your job ad inspire to these ideals or are you still listing the day to day activities like before?

2. Offer social proof that you are great to work with

Gen Y is congregating in Social Media. Go there and engage them before they even think of wanting to work with you. Make them want to work with you. It might make Gen Y sound egotistical but think about it. They are inundated with options. They can even make money without leaving their bedrooms. Why then should they choose to work for you?

3. Activate their intrinsic motivators

Gen Y is present oriented. Think of their environment in their formative years, and you will immediately understand why. Telling them that they will be promoted in two years means nothing to them. You have to help them appreciate their journey towards that milestone.

Tap into their intrinsic motivators. As Marion says, “Motivators may include a sense of belonging, a desire to help others, fulfilling a perfectionist streak, learning a new skill, or becoming competent in an existing skills set.”

Let them experience challenges big enough to grow them, not break them. Give them a series of instant gratifications that will lead them from one level to the next until they hit the big reward. Sounds like a computer game? Well, that’s what they grew up with.

4. Go back to your Self

Our bosses used to tell and instruct. These are now outdated modes of managing subordinates. Let’s face it, regardless of generation, nobody likes to be told. Start learning how to coach your staff instead.

Also, know that coaching is not just heart to heart talks. It takes skills to have an effective coaching session. It takes a good deal of mindset and emotional shift to practise it effectively. So don’t be surprised if you find yourself resistant to this mode of nurturing talent. The good thing is that it works for everyone, not just the Millenials.

They are many systems of coaching. Start with a simple one. Marion suggests Solution Focused Coaching.

The truth is, there is very little difference between your company and another in the same industry. Gen Y rather work with one that gives them meaning, pleasure and develops their strengths. It doesn’t matter how small your company is, if you make it sexy for the Gen Y, it will be a great pull factor. It’s time to turn our Gen Y employees on.

If you are still lamenting about the Millenials, it’s not them, it’s you.

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