Whether you call them Generation Y, Millenials or the Echo Boomers, today's new generation of workers have a very different point of view than their managers. They don't know who shot J.R., but they do know what happened on The X Factor last night. Instead of Pac Man, they play Halo 4. They don't know what Jordache jeans are, but they've filled their closets with items from H&M's latest collaboration. This generation has grown up with Facebook, mobile phones and global warming and this has shaped their view of the world.
As managers, we're faced with the challenge of finding ways to motivate this unique – and growing – segment of the workforce to build value for the company as a whole and minimize turnover. In the words of Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin Group, "Loyal employees in a company create loyal customers, who in turn create happy shareholders." So when this is a generation that doesn't believe in spending their whole career at one company, but plans to move around, how do we keep them motivated? Here are 10 tips to motivate Gen Y team members.
1. Show opportunities for job growth. This isn't just about promotions, it's about showcasing a range of opportunities that meet the needs of Gen Y. Whether it's through lateral movement or different career paths, give Gen Y employees growth opportunities that they can access to help satisfy their need for ongoing change.
2. Teach (and show) them they are making a difference. This is a generation that wants to make a bigger impact on the world we live in and they show it with their purchasing power. Having a consistent and clear strategy for making our world a better place makes communicating the impacts back to our team straightforward and actionable.
3. Encourage them to have their own personality. This can mean throwing out the dress code, eliminating scripted responses or having 'break time' activities at the office. Giving Gen Y employees a voice and making it okay for that voice to be their own will make them feel more comfortable and valued at work.
4. Embrace social media. Digital and social media play a huge role for Gen Y and as employers we need to accept and find ways to work with it. By making it possible for Gen Y to use social media tools at work (within reason, of course), you show them that you understand and respect that their lives outside of work are important, too.
5. Walk the talk. This generation prides itself on being suspicious of companies that promise everything and fail to deliver. If you make a promise to your customer, then proving to your staff that you can deliver on it is just as important as the promise itself. If you let them down, they head for the door.
6. Give it to them straight. By making Gen Y employees part of the process, they'll be more invested in your business. This means giving them the details on the business and how they fit in to its success. But don't just share the good news – being honest about the negatives is just as important.
7. Give them challenging and interesting work. As the youngest in the workplace, this generation wants to prove itself and stand out from the crowd. While not every project may be sexy, work that challenges them and provides opportunities to shine will help to keep them motivated for the times when grunt work needs to be taken care of.
8. It's okay to make mistakes. Just don't make them twice! Creating an environment where taking risks and making mistakes isn't punished helps to ensure that you make use of the creativity that this generation has to offer. Some of our best ideas have come from saying "screw it, let's do it" – or learning from the mistakes of a unique idea that didn't turn out how we'd hoped.
9. Location, location, location. For this generation, work isn't the centre of their life, but just another part of it. Keeping the most creative and engaged group of employees means having your workplace in a location that's convenient to them. Rather than commute in cars, they're looking to be able to bike or walk to work or be in a fun neighbourhood for lunch with friends.
10. Have fun. It may seem simple, but a fun workplace is a happy workplace. It's important to not just let Gen Y employees have fun, but to have fun with them. As Richard Branson always says, relaxing and socializing with your staff can be one of the best ways to build loyalty and collect feedback.
Andrew Bridge is the managing director of Virgin Mobile Canadawhere he leads a dynamic team to build Canada's #1 mobile brand connecting with youth. When he's not at the office, Andrew also works with Virgin Unite Canadaas a trustee, championing the fight to end youth homelessness in Canada. Follow him on Twitter at@abridge.