How to Motivate Generation Y

By Philippe Cesson

“How can I motivate my Generation Y employees?”

If you’re a CEO over 40, this question has probably perplexed you in recent years. You are seeing new, young and clearly talented employees integrating into your companies. Yet, they’re different than any other generations of employees you ever had to deal with.

Between 16 and 31 years old, “Generation Yers” (or Millennials) are typically described in the hundreds of workshops my company has conducted over the years as unengaged and entitled, while technological savviness seems to be the sole positive.

Below are a few concrete steps you can take to reap the benefits of a younger force:

Review Process

According to the Labor Department, the average Millennial has a two-year tenure with his or her current employer — meaning, these are employees that aren’t likely to stay with you for an extended period of time.

Therefore, using a yearly review process with a hypothetical raise 12 to 14 months after the date of hire makes more sense to a boomer, whose average tenure is around nine years, than it does to a member of Generation Y.

And let’s face it, business cycles are faster today than they ever were before, so a quarterly process will be more attuned to the current needs of your company than a yearly one.

SurveyMonkey has a built-in 360 tools (http://blog.surveymonkey.com/2011/01/360-employee-feedback-survey-example/) that, for a few dollars a month, will do the leg work of a cumbersome paper-based review, while providing you with valuable information on your employees, and yourself too.

Instant Rewards

Do not hesitate to carry a few $20 Starbucks gift certificates and reward them on the spot for a job well done. This will appeal to the instant gratification Millennials are used to.

Office Environment

Open-floor plan, low-walled cubicles, plenty of meeting rooms both formal and informal (cafeteria or employee lounge) — that’s how to get the most energy flowing into your company.

Without remodeling your office, you can still break the monotony of office life by having “Dress-up Mondays” to encourage employees to come with their most formal attires, or “No internal e-mail Fridays” to encourage employees to talk to each others, either directly or via phones.

Technology

Your average Generation Y employee is using e-mail with close to unlimited storage, and has constant access to all of her or his pictures and personal files via mobile phones and tablets. They don’t expect less from your company. It goes beyond looking uncool or dated. It’s about harnessing that social collaboration and transform it into productive, work related collaboration beneficial to your business.

Cloud computing will allow your business to deliver such collaborative tools without the up-front capital costs and probably lesser monthly expenses than you can manage on your own.

Check out those leading providers:

(The last two link to videos that will make you rethink your current collaborative system.)

Work Site

A client company was looking towards making working from home available to their employees a few years back. The company decided to ask its employees first what they thought about that opportunity, and second if they would indeed work from home if offered.

Looking at the results by generation was eye opening. The majority of boomers expressed resistance to the idea, citing the need to actually physically leave home behind during the day and the fear of missing important meetings. Millennials were evidently more enthusiastic about the concept, although the term home was misleading in that case, as they expressed opportunities to work from a coffee shop or a friend’s house.

The keys to a successful work from home integration is to monitor the output of your employees and to make sure the vast majority of the week is spent in the office, where impromptu meetings will happen that will contribute towards homogenous company culture and higher socialization.

Core Hours

We advise our clients to have core hours, typically 10 a.m. 3 p.m., during which meetings are scheduled and all employees are expected to be available. This schedule accommodates workers who need to leave early to pick up kids after work or beat traffic as well as those who are stretching their college life and simply can’t function well early in the morning.

This guideline goes hand-in-hand with a strict meeting policy of 30-minute increments, with agenda and deliverables and without electronics. Computers are to be used for note taking and remote participation only.

And remember, if you are a CEO belonging to the Boomer generation (50 to 66 years old), you have longer managerial span and experience to handle Gen Yers than Gen Xers (30 to 50 years-old) do. And if you still have a hard time dealing with Gen Yers, you might take comfort in the fact that Gen Xers will have to work with them for an even longer period of time.

Philippe Cesson is CEO of CESSON 3.0, a marketing and training company based in California, with offices in San Diego, New York City and Miami. Cesson’s speciality is helping companies succeed in social media, bridging the generational divide and “Navigating the New Normal.”
Originally published: Feb 15, 2012

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