Gen Y: They Want to Make a Difference in Your Organization, If They Decide to Stay

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Jason Dorsey entertains the crowd during the AME 2013 Excellence Inside International Conference in Toronto.

Come on now, people! You’ve got to learn how to cross the generational divide if you’re going to understand and successfully attract, team up with and retain Generation Yers. You know the type: They feel entitled. They may have successfully delayed adulthood (many think that state begins when they hit 30). You need their innovative ideas and resourcefulness to take you to the next level and beyond. But how? Jason Dorsey, chief strategy officer at the Center for Generational Kinetics, shared suggestions for bridging potential gaps between generations in his keynote address during the recent AME Toronto conference. He’s passionate about unlocking the power of generations, sorting out communications and other issues along the way. Dorsey is the author of the book, Y-Size Your Business: How Gen Y Employees Can Save You Money and Grow Your Business.

Gen Y employees want to make a difference in your organization, starting their first day at work, counseled Dorsey. It is their most important day at work, a good indicator of whether they will decide to stick around a while or take a hike. Give them personalized business cards ASAP. Understand that they will naturally challenge the status quo. They want to be valued, challenged and included. If you can’t inspire and engage them quickly and consistently, your plans for their long-term service will be toast.

Members of various generations tend to share similar characteristics, according to Dorsey. Beliefs, priorities, preferences, buying patterns, communication habits and workplace styles, for example, may provide common ground or spark misunderstanding.

Dorsey noted that differences emerge within a generational group, however. Among Gen Y folks, one camp pays its own bills and takes on more “adult” responsibilities at a younger age; another camp does not. The first camp may even be offended at the behavior of the second.

Get to know the preferred communication style of Gen Y associates, suggested Dorsey. A text message — not a phone message — is generally their preferred way to communicate.  Emailing with a subject line comes next, then social media (forget face-to-face get-togethers). Dorsey had more than a few humorous comments about the Baby Boomers’ penchant for phone calls and in-person chats. And if you thought a brief Post-it note could catch a Gen Y associate’s attention, forget it! Many of them do not read cursive writing. And they probably don’t carry a pen, in case you’re interested.

The key for making each generation a strategic advantage is engaging them based on their preferences and priorities, Dorsey said. For Gen Y, provide specific examples of the behavior (and if needed, dress code) that you’re seeking. They are visual learners. YouTube is likely their most trusted resource.

Generations provide clues for leaders and managers looking toward higher performance, although there are exceptions, said Dorsey. Being able to connect with people of another generation provides advantage for the organization, by maximizing every employee’s performance.

Lea Tonkin, president of Lea Tonkin Communications in Woodstock, IL, is the former editor in chief of Target and Target Online.