Why culture is key to getting the most from Gen Y at work

Generation Y will make up 40 percent of the world’s workforce in a few years. So if you haven’t figured out how to get the most from your Gen Y employees, now is the time to do it.

Last post we talked about how to get Baby Boomers, Gen X and Gen Y to work together. Now we’ll zero in on Gen Y.

We’ve previously explained how to engage Gen Y at work, and shared tips for communicating with Gen Y employees. What we haven’t covered is how to create a Gen Y-friendly workplace culture.

What do Generation Y workers want?

Generation Y workers are often criticised for needing constant praise, wanting promotions without putting in the hard yards, and wasting work time on social media.

Some of these criticisms might be true. But Gen Y workers want more from their workplaces than you might think.

Like Baby Boomers and Gen X, Gen Y workers need to feel valued and part of a team. They’re also the generation most concerned with finding fulfilment at work.

In a nutshell, Gen Y workers want:

• Work life balance
• To work as part of a team
• Positive feedback and reinforcement
• Freedom to use technology to do their jobs better

Here’s how to create a culture that makes that happen:

Encourage collaboration

Extreme introverts aside, Gen Y workers don’t like working alone. They see the workplace as somewhere to make friends and socialise.

Employers can get more from Gen Y workers by encouraging these social behaviours. Ask younger employees to collaborate on projects. Task them with organising social activities like morning teas and team building events. You could even pair Gen Y workers with willing senior staff for mentoring.

Communicate on their level

It’s not always easy to communicate with Gen Y workers.

They need to be told that they’re doing a good job — all the time. They send text messages instead of calling when they can’t come into work. And they often confuse being criticised with being disliked.

You can’t change the fact that Gen Y workers need more praise and reassurance, or that they’re sensitive to criticism. But you can — and should — work with it. You might tire of telling younger workers that they’re awesome, but they’ll produce better work as a result.

Be open to new technologies

Generation Y is the most technologically savvy generation in history. This has a big impact on how they like to work — and not just because they’re checking social media at every opportunity.

Instead of restricting phone use at work, create a culture that encourages Gen Y to solve problems with technology. Ask them to identify inefficient processes (i.e. timesheets and rostering) and research possible solutions.

The secret to any great workplace culture is creating an environment where employees of all generations can do their best work. For Gen Y workers, this means being able to interact with others, feel confident in their abilities and put their technical know-how to work.

You’ll benefit from Gen Y’s technical expertise, and Gen Y workers will feel that their talents are appreciated.