Maximize Those Gen Y Employees

UPDATED: July 10, 2012
PUBLISHED: July 10, 2012

You’ve seen us on TV. You’ve read about us online. We may even be living with you right now—we’re Generation Y. We are the 80 million 18- to 34-year-olds entering the U.S. workforce in droves. Along with our ever-present iPhones and constant Facebook updates, we bring a different perspective to work. But should you hire us?

I know why you may hesitate. We have a reputation for acting entitled, running late and treating our birthday as a national holiday (which it is). But within our huge generation, we are witnessing a growing divide. Many Gen Y professionals show up early, stay late and think faster than they type. This is the segment you should hire. Now.

Yeah, we’re a little different—and that can be to the advantage of your bottom line. In my company’s work with employers globally, we’ve found three big reasons Gen Y brings more value than our paychecks represent:

• We expect to make a difference starting on our first day at work. This is why we think we should be managers. Our drive to make an impact from Day One is critical to an immediate return on your hiring investment.

• We challenge the status quo. Our brains automatically spot inefficiencies, such as dial-up Internet, and seek ways to fix them. This is particularly true when it comes to technology, service and legacy business problems.

• We will take pay cuts to be your employee. Interviews reveal we will take up to a 15 percent salary decrease to work somewhere we feel valued, challenged and included. This is real money in a challenging economy.

Once you have hired us, these virtually free strategies will make the most of your Gen Y employees:

Strategy 1—Make our first day at work unforgettable. Gen Y workers decide on Day One whether to stay with an employer long-term. Use this to your advantage and instantly improve retention. My favorite tactic: Surprise us with 10 preprinted business cards. This exchange gives you the perfect opening to set workplace expectations.

Strategy 2—Position your job based on challenges and projects rather than duties and responsibilities. The most talented, motivated Gen Yers are looking for jobs where we can own solving problems. If you want us to accept a job on the spot, say during the interview, “I’m not sure you can handle the challenges that go with this position.” We’ll begin brainstorming solutions before we’re on the payroll.

Strategy 3—Keep your ribbons to yourself. We already have a room full of trophies. Instead take five seconds to say, “Thanks for stepping up when we needed you.” Most managers were taught, “If your boss is talking to you, you’re doing something wrong.” Gen Y was taught the opposite. Five seconds of feedback can mean five months of motivation.

As an employer of Gen Y, I’ve seen firsthand the impact we can bring. I’ve also seen how much we love getting our own business cards. Who is the first person we give our new business card to? Our moms! And many of us do it when she picks us up.