• Five Keys to Leading Gen Y

    Original post can be found HERE.

    You’d think we were grumpy old men. Recently, I had lunch with a number of IT leaders and several people were bemoaning the challenges they’re having with some of their younger staff members. The complaining was ironic, as none of us are old men (yet). One thing was clear however: managing the generation of instant gratification (Gen Y, Millennials) requires a different set of strategies.

    Set clear expectations

    Setting clear expectations is always important in the workplace, but it is especially so with Gen Y. Culture and socially acceptable behavior changes very quickly.

    For many, the line between work and social environments can be blurred. Setting expectations for everything from basics such as dress code, attendance, focus-requirements (put down your iPhone), and communications styles, to professional items including how work should be completed, timing, follow-ups, and what to do when things don’t go right, will help reduce misunderstandings and set a strong foundation for success.

    Show them the big picture, but make tasks bite size

    Understanding the big picture and how their tasks fit into it is important to Gen Y. They want to feel like they’re contributing to something bigger. By exposing them to the corporate vision, they’ll also start to appreciate and understand the process of thinking beyond their next task. As a result, they will feel more engaged and connected to the company and won’t quit quite as soon.

    Sometimes the big picture can be overwhelming. To counteract this, break tasks down into small pieces and measure progress regularly. Team members will feel they’re constantly making progress, even if the project as a whole is large.

    Celebrate accomplishments (no matter how small)

    There’s a huge disconnect between the world where Gamers accomplish something epic every 15 minutes (you finished the quest, here’s a bag of gold) and a workplace that conducts performance reviews annually and pays bonuses after Christmas. Changing from a structured, infrequent review and celebration process to a frequent one will help Gen Y better recognize their successes and increase their engagement.

    For a Gen Y team I recently became a part of, we created short (15 minute) daily meetings for our teams, with a simple three part agenda: What did you accomplish yesterday? What are you working on today? What roadblocks are standing in your way?

    The results: Individuals knew that their team lead was always there to support them. Accomplishments were publicly celebrated daily. The team was more focused and engaged. The team lead knew exactly what was happening at all times and could adjust where necessary. Projects were more successful as a result of public accountability and the teams were happier following recognition of their successes.

    Understand their values

    Each generation has different values. This creates some of the biggest disconnects in business. Where older generations often value stability, Gen Y values flexibility. It’s not live to work, it’s work to live (the way it should be).

    For individuals, flexibility could be key, or professional development, or cool projects. Understanding what’s important to each member of your team will help you engage and retain them.

    Keep them connected and communicating

    Communication is king. In a connected age with smartphones, instant messaging, Facebook, and Twitter, this has never been more true. Millennials have grown up being collaborative, networked, and constantly connected.

    Forward-thinking companies use these technologies to engage staff, keep them connected, and aligned with their businesses.

    Internal collaboration and communication tools (think “corporate” Facebook) can be used to communicate everything from the big picture to the smallest details, engage staff, increase visibility, and connect individuals and teams.

    Developing strategies to manage Gen Y is key to the success of every business. A lot of it is common sense: Show them the big picture, but make tasks manageable. Celebrate often. Understand what drives your teams. Find ways to keep everyone connected and collaborative. Do this well and you’ll attract and retain the most talented, fresh-thinking people in the workforce.

    Mike is a Technology Strategist, Project Superhero and Cyber-Security Simplifier.  He is a partner at Incrementa Consulting a boutique consulting firm dedicated to helping businesses be more successful.  You can connect with Mike on Twitter, LinkedIn or the Incrementa website.

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