Jenny Williams, an experienced coach and trainer specialising in the marketing and creative industries, explains why it's key to understand their needs to retain talent and create an inspiring workplace.
Recently, a creative agency courted and recruited a new creative director. However, they soon found him adamant in his approach, antisocial and inflexible in his music choices - among other less than charming idiosyncracies. After three months, he spoke with the HR director. His opening gambit? 'I’m clearly doing the best work here, when am I going to get promoted?' He lasted eight months.
The challenges Generation Y present to the workforce are well known: lack of loyalty, surplus of confidence, disrespect for hierarchy and so on. The data reflects these difficulties: 63% of business decision makers and 68% of recruiters admit they find it tough to manage Gen Y (Harvard Business Review). But this friction is vital. Gen Y are forcing us to rethink how we work. And we need to pay attention.
In the next decade, 75% of the global work force will be Gen Y (PWC study). In addition, the way we work is changing. For example, in the advertising industry a recent study (NABS 2013) found that, 84% of respondents said demands at work have increased over the last month, while 65% said there were points in their careers when they were under so much stress they could not cope. It's time to negotiate a better way of working together. Generation Y is part of this change. When we fully understand their needs, we'll be able to conceive of an inspiring workplace for all of us, regardless of the generation.
There are five key work needs, which Generation Y has:
1. To seek skills
Gen Y may be ambitious, but they need to be. It has never been a tougher time to enter the workplace: lower salaries without a pension promise for a luxurious retirement. They need to acquire skills to realised their professional dreams. The trouble is that often, they don’t know exactly what those skills are, and this is where companies can help.
2. To notch up productive experiences
This need was first identified by Lynda Gratton, Professor at London Business School. For Gen Y, ‘experiences’ are vital. A successful life is one full of productive experiences; time in advertising, a stint in New York, then all change to become a micro entrepreneur, interspersed with periods of travelling and volunteering. The linear career is over. Money and status are less important than previous generations; flexibility and options are the new priority.
3. To be short-term sensations
The ambition and need for character building experiences means they want to be sensational straight away. Rather than mounting obstacles, we need to think about how we can make them sensational quickly. If they feel like they're realising their potential, there is more chance that they will stay longer.
4. To contribute to society
Whilst commonly known as the 'selfie generation', Gen Y want to contribute positively towards society. They expect the companies for which they work to do so too. A recent poll shows that 50% of Gen Y want to work for a business with ethical practices: success is being measured by different indicators than the purely financial. Company culture is important to them; they want to be part of something, which aligns with their values.
5. To be collaborative connectors
As digital natives they operate in world without hierarchy. However, they can step on senior toes in their eagerness to get the job done. They need to learn that this is not collaboration and is not a viable long-term career strategy. Moreover, the future of work is through increasing collaboration for truly innovative solutions. This is in Gen Y's genes. So businesses need to remove barriers and take advantage of this.
It goes without saying that Generation Y are the future. To attract, develop and retain people at work, it's key to understand their needs. Only then do Gen Y have the potential to become the most hard-working, collaborative and productive workforces ever.
Jenny Williams is an ICF accredited Coach, NLP Master Practitioner and Enneagram Practitioner; specialising in the marketing, creative and media industries. Check out her website and follow her on Twitter.