How to Motivate Gen Y

In order to create an organization that successfully motivates its employees to greater performance, you must embrace the fact that you are or will be working with people of different ages. Life priorities, work preferences, and adaptability to technology advancements are all potential points of difference between older and younger generations. As an HR manager, you need to take the time to better understand the generational gaps to effectively manage and motivate your employees. Each generation has distinctive characteristics, behavioral traits, and value systems.

Employees born in the 1980s or 1990s—commonly referred to as Generation Y or Millennials—are often stereotyped as strongly individualistic. As Millennials make up a more substantial part of the U.S. workforce—recent estimates predict they’ll make up half the workforce by 2020—we can see a strong trend towards putting the individual at the center of choices in the professional and personal spheres. Gen Yers want to work in a company with a balanced environment which adapts and evolves in in a way that leads and inspires them to fulfill their ambitions. They want to be successful and they expect the support necessary to reach their goals.

Gen Yers assume that work is one of the many sources of fulfillment, and happiness lies in the harmony and balance between these different spheres. They expect organizations to be understanding and to adapt. Work-life balance is key, although not in the traditional sense of "I work from 9-to-5 and then leave." Most Millennials do not consider normal work hours as the only time in which they can get the work done. In case of an emergency or a family obligation, they expect to be able to leave the office. They are aware they will have to complete all tasks that accumulate during their absence at a later date.

Millennials grew up with instant messaging and multitasking. They don’t subscribe to the old school phrase ‘no news from the manager is good news.’ They need constant feedback on how they are doing and long for both informal and formal recognition and rewards. Managers need to keep in mind that salaries don’t top Millennials list of the most powerful motivators as has been the case for older generations. Generally speaking, Gen Y would accept reasonable lower salaries if the organizational culture mirrors their values. Nonetheless, as an HR manager, you need to be able to justify the offered salary, and compare it with the industry's standards. Discuss with your employees why they are being paid the way they are, and address any discrepancies from the average.

It’s good to offer tangible rewards for the best performers, but don’t try to guess which gadgets or prizes they find appealing. Instead, offer them the chance to select from a number of interesting and creative prize options. They want to feel that their job is important and know how the assignment will affect their compensation, but also how they contribute to the overall bottom line. Therefore, take steps to involve Gen Yers more broadly, and make their job diverse and multifaceted. Most members of Gen Y value a clearly defined career path. HR managers should specify what stage of the path they are in, what they need to do to get to the next level and how long that will take.

Companies should offer Millennials prospect for continuous learning and financial support for their educational advancement. Gen Yers appreciate opportunities to participate in soft skills trainings that encourage self-development in the areas like effective communication, time management and teamwork and hard skills training programs in foreign languages and computer skills. Also more one-on-one coaching and counseling by managers with Generation Y employees may be very well received.

Millennials are most engaged in a pleasurable, energetic atmosphere. Look for ways to create social opportunities as rewards for meeting objectives. Fun activities, team building trainings and events can help keep morale high and actually build greater employee performance.

Gen Y employees can be a superb asset to your organization. Their energy can breathe life to projects, and their fresh perspective will challenge the rusty way in which "things have always been done here" to help develop new and better ways. HR Managers need to understand the new aspirations and adapt management style to make it more sustainable and suited to the new generation entering into the labor market. HR managers will need diligence and an attentive eye to keep these employees engaged and enthusiastic. So, instead of trying to manage Gen Y, inspire them. Try to get the individual to be the best employee he or she can be in pursuit of the organization’s shared dream.