For the generation of people born in the mid 70’s to 90’s who have been entering the workforce for the last decade and a half, their experience of work has been quite different than the experiences of previous workers. According to a recent study by Yale Economics Professor, Lisa Kahn, the impact of these first work experiences, will shape how our Gen Y’s deal with their work environment for decades to come. Unfortunately for most Gen Y’s, their first exposure to the economic marketplace has not been good. They’ve seen jobs lost, retirement funds destroyed, people losing homes and in some cases families—all because of economic realities that appear to be beyond individual control. While our Gen Y’s have been more sheltered by their parents than the generations of the past, they are also a generation who has found itself working inside an economic environment where even the most calculated risks and well thought out plans have not panned out. It is no surprise that our Gen Y’s are probably one of the most risk adverse generations of the recent past. Here’s how that risk adversity plays out in the workplace: ● They are less likely to change jobs, IF you treat them right. Even if more difficult for your Gen Y workers to develop loyalty towards you as their employer, they will stay put at jobs and companies that meet their needs. While older generations have been told that when you are young, you are supposed to change jobs to find the right fit for you, the Gen Y folks are actually more hesitant to do so, even for an increase in pay. In fact, studies show that Gen Y’s are more likely respond favorably and stay put in jobs or work for companies and managers who provide the kind of work environment they prefer. ● They value mentorship. If you are managing someone younger, you may want to consider over explaining your instructions and decisions—making sure your Gen Y folks are mentored at a level that meets their needs for knowledge, information, and praise. While lacking the experience and perspective to read between the lines, they are very eager to learn, and enjoy opportunities you can provide them to interact with you on decisions you are making. They love being asked for their ideas or feedback. The typical awards for good work—annual salary bumps, title adjustments, etc.—are often less motivating to a Gen Y worker than are ongoing opportunities for mentoring from someone they value and respect. ● They distrust hierarchies and will challenge conventional thinking. In team meetings, they will look for all parties to be treated as equal team members. If you expect to be treated as “a boss,” think again, as it likely won’t happen and could get in the way of your goal to get the most out of your generation Y workers. If they challenge your ideas, don’t take it personally. If you experience them either unwilling or reacting negatively to your requests to “keep you informed,” it’s not that they want to be secretive about what they do; it’s that they see no value in “reporting up.” What Gen Y’s value most is mentoring and coaching from someone they respect, someone who looks and sounds more like a teacher than a manager. ● They think of success as being about “luck” rather than planning. According to Paola Giuliano of UCLA’s School of Management and Antonio Spilimbergo of the International Monetary Fund, employees who started working during the last ten years, tend to believe that success is as much about “luck” and “being there” as it is about effort or planning. While they have seen government safety nets growing at a rapid rate, it has been amidst a growing skepticism about the government’s ability to do what it promises. This somewhat fatalistic attitude towards success has made our Gen Y’s good at compromising—accepting jobs or work that are very different from their planned careers, knowing that someone or something will always be there if their luck fails. For our Gen Y’s, planning for success seems more futile and less relevant to what they see as reality. ● They VALUE HARD WORK. Even though luck is a component of the Gen Y mindset, it doesn’t mean they shy away from hard work when the job requires it. Many of our Gen Y-ers have never known job security and consider “being fired” a very real possibility if they don’t work hard enough. Managers shouldn’t be afraid to challenge their Gen Y workers with “more to do,” but give them lots of latitude in how/when to do it. The lines between work and play are much more blurred for your Gen Y workers than it has been for workers of the past. ● They need clarity! Gen Y workers hate uncertainty and expect quick and clear answers, neatly defined goals and how to get there. They also want access to information that they can research on their own. Ambiguity at any scale is unsettling to our Gen Y workers; putting pressure on managers to provide them with more information than has been made available to workforces in the past. They LOVE scorecards that let them know exactly where they stand and they need to know what they must DO to improve their scores. Objective measures of success will ALWAYS trump your subjective commentary. ● They love teams; they hate conflict; they’re talented negotiators. Our Gen Y’s have been deeply engrained with the wisdom that teamwork is far more efficient than self-reliance and will look for ways to engage with others in and outside of formal team settings. You don’t have to worry about Gen Y’s becoming mavericks as did our Gen X’s. Their affinity for and the skills needed to develop teamwork is unparalleled in the history of workforces. To get your Gen Y’s assimilated into your work group; put them on project teams, preferably with short turnaround times and clearly defined deliverables. And yes, when conflict arises, be prepared to experience their negotiation skills, they’ve been negotiating with their parents and peers for years! Jeanne Knutzen is the owner and founder of the PACE Staffing Network, a 38-year-old staffing company headquartered in Bellevue Washington—a community just outside of Seattle. PACE places the full range of generationally defined workers from boomers, to X’s to Y’s and so on in a variety of work settings—interim project work, core teams, virtual work environments. “We regularly explore the mindsets and perspectives of employees and employers to assemble teams that work together effectively. Helping clients find, select, and then manage the right workers to deliver the highest levels of work performance, is what we’re all about.” For a private consultation about what is going on with the employees on your team and some ideas on how to manage each employee to optimal levels of performance, please feel free to contact Jeanne at firstname.lastname@example.org.