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Managing Gen-Y Team Members

What positives does Gen-Y (Millennials) bring to your startup, and what management strategies will work most effectively and productively with them?

Managing Gen-Y Team Members

Everyone is quick to point out their shortcomings and idiosyncrasies, but I see some attractive attributes from a business perspective, including the following:

  • Confidence. Raised by parents believing in the importance of self-esteem, they characteristically consider themselves ready to solve the world’s problems and leap tall buildings.
  • Goal and achievement oriented. Some Gen-Y team members will arrive on their first day with personal goals already documented. They expect a workplace that is technically challenging, creative, fun, and financially rewarding.
  • Collaborative. Gen-Y is used to being team organizations—and are taught that no one is left behind. A minor consideration is that their favorite collaboration tool is Facebook.
  • Multicultural. They expect to earn a living in a workplace that is fair to all, where diversity is the norm—and they’ll use their collective power if they feel someone is treated unfairly.
  • Civic-minded. They were taught to think in terms of the greater good. They have a high rate of volunteerism. They expect companies to contribute to their communities—and to operate in ways that create a sustainable environment.

Your challenge, then, is to capitalize on these positive attributes in your business. Here are six management strategies and work recommendations which I believe you will find good for your business, as well as effective in attracting, retaining, and motivating all workers, including Gen-Y:

  1. Provide real leadership. This generation has grown up with parents who were role models and provided structure and supervision. Gen-Y is expecting to find leaders with honesty and integrity. It’s not that they don’t want to be leaders themselves, they’d just like some great role models first.
  2. Challenge your employees. Gen-Y wants learning opportunities. They want to be assigned to projects they can learn from. A recent Randstad employee survey found that “trying new things” was the most popular item. They’re looking for growth, development, a career path.
  3. Foster family relationship with workers. Gen-Y says they want to work with people they click with. They like being friends with coworkers. Consider setting up a mentoring and reverse mentoring program to foster relationships between workers of different generations.
  4. Make the workplace fun and enjoyable. A little humor, a bit of silliness, even a little irreverence will make your work environment more attractive. Lay out the office so that Gen-Y finds it easy to interact with peers and share ideas.
  5. Show respect to everyone. Gen-Y expects their approaches and ideas to be treated with respect, even though they are new and inexperienced. Assign projects to teams of people who are measured as a group for specific goals. They love praise as the highest sign of respect, so use it constructively.
  6. Be flexible. The busiest generation ever isn’t going to give up its activities just because of jobs. A rigid schedule is a sure-fire way to lose your Gen-Y employees. Take advantage of the lessons already learned by many startups, who have flexible work weeks, flexible start times, and work at home opportunities.

In this struggling economy and highly competitive business environment, companies around the world recognize that the differentiator is their people. The Gen-Y is here – you can’t ignore them. Make your Gen-Y people your competitive edge.

Marty is Cayenne's Chief Knowledge Officer and the Founder & CEO of Startup Professionals. His passion is nurturing the development of entrepreneurs by providing first-hand mentoring, funding assistance, and business plan development. He has over 30 years of experience in big businesses, as well as startups. View details.

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