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Engaging Gen Y - 22 August 2013

Depending on the demographer you follow, Generation Y includes anyone born as early as 1977 or as late as 1994.  This means Gen Ys in your team are aged between 19 and 36.  That’s a really wide period in which to group a whole bunch of people.  How is it possible that every person in that one age bracket possesses the same characteristics and preferences?  The answer is – they don’t – and this was demonstrated earlier this year in research conducted at the Queensland University of Technology.

The researchers wanted to discover whether there was a difference between Gen Ys who are currently at university (and are yet to enter the workforce) compared to Gen Ys already working full-time.  Sure, there was much they had in common – such as a desire for praise, collaboration, and challenging work – but there were also clear distinctions.

One such example was in relation to goals.  Gen Ys in the workforce placed a higher priority on achieving their career objectives.  They seemed to be driven strongly by the existence of these goals and deemed their success in this area to be critical.  Gen Y students, on the other hand, rated it as being of much lesser importance.

What this demonstrates is not that we should treat Gen Ys differently based upon their work or study status.  What it demonstrates is that if differences exist between two groups within one demographic, surely differences also exist between Gen Y males and Gen Y females; Gen Y Aussies and Gen Y Asians; Gen Y doctors and Gen Y nurses; and so on.

That’s why talented leaders put aside generalised stereotypes.  They accept the following:

   -   Whilst it’s true the evidence suggests Gen Ys value flexibility (doesn’t everyone?), it’s more effective to identify the type of flexibility favoured by each individual.

   -   While research indicates Gen Ys want meaningful jobs (doesn’t everyone?), it’s a good idea to figure out precisely what each employee considers to be meaningful.

   -   Even though studies show Gen Ys would like more training and development (doesn’t everyone?), it’s essential to cater for the unique learning style of each person.

As the researchers conclude, “Gen Y is not a homogenous group”, and that’s why treating them as such can be disengaging.  Treating them as individuals, however, is a far more certain way of increasing their levels of engagement.
 


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