Some call them the dot.com generation; others refer to them as the boomerang generation. Call them what you like, but young people today are more influential than ever before. They are the force behind the great innovations that have blessed the 21st century.
If you are managing a staff of young employees, you understand that workers in this age group pose their own unique challenges to management. And being able to adjust to their demands can be tough.
However, the employers and managers that make changes in their management style for today’s young workers will be the ones with fewer turnovers or hiring setbacks, and more profit for their business. These changes must be made because this is the workforce of today.
The process of managing young employees should start as soon as you decide to employ them. When you interview a younger potential worker, be sure to craft a clear representation of what your company will expect of him or her. Explain fully and clearly performance goals, appropriate office behaviour, dress code and office hours. This will open the potential employee’s eyes to the job requirements and what it takes to succeed.
“Because most young employees do not know what is expected from them, you have to be very clear about the job description, the organisational structure and the culture of the organisation,” explains Aggie Kwesiga, a human resource consultant.
Martin Sabiti quit his job because his boss was insisting he handles accounts, yet he was interested in working in the information technology department.
“I was good at both IT and accounts, but I had no interest in accounts. When my boss insisted that I should do the accounts work, I quit,” he narrates.
Kwesiga says young workers need to be guided, but not controlled.
“Most of the young workers want to do so many things, you have to understand what they want and you guide them accordingly.”
Some employers still run their companies like schools and do not allow things like surfing the Internet. But the younger generation of today has the ability to multi-task. This means that they can send e-mails, talk on the phone and compose memos at the same time, and enjoy themselves in the process.
“As long as the activities do not interfere with their work, they can be given the freedom,” advices Kwesiga.
She adds that because young employees have a lot of drive and energy, employers have to constantly present them with challenges.
Tony Lenart, a senior trainer with the Institute of Advanced Leadership (Australia) shares a related view.
“My experience with young employees is that is if you sit with them and help them see a great future in front of them by working hard within your company, they are often some of the brightest and hardest working employees. Their fresh ideas and willingness to innovate can often help the company enormously,” he says.
The workplace needs to be fun and employee-centred. They want to enjoy their work and their workplace, and make friends with their colleagues. This means going out to lunch with other employees, laughing and joking with staffers as they work.
Bridging the generation gap
‘Generation gap’ defines the relationship between those who have more than a 10-year age difference between them. In the workplace, this difference can cause conflicts.
“Older managers have to understand that they have to earn the respect from the younger workers,” says Kwesiga.
“If you want them to respect you, you have to act professionally. For example, do not flirt with them or make any sexual advances,” she adds.
Bob Losyk, a top-level management expert in his book, Opening the Doors for Young Workers, advices managers to understand what members of each group are thinking.
“Intrinsic values are common in young people because they are most often upwardly mobile, while older employees may have more extrinsic job values, looking at things like retirement plans health insurance and pension benefits.”
Simply put, older employees could have leaving on their minds and younger employees have staying and moving up the career ladder on their minds.
After understanding them, Losyk advices employers to find a common ground of interest for both age groups.
He says ‘group think’ is a common way to bring both age groups together. It increases the chance for innovative ideas to grow and flourish. Older employees can benefit from youthful views and know-how on new technologies. All the while, the younger employees can also benefit from the life and work experiences of the older employees.
Lenart argues that managers should promote older employees basing on how they help the younger employees fit-in and grow.
“Employers should make sure older employees are aware that if they are looking to promote someone to a more senior role, one of the key things they look for is that they are the type of person who helps others to learn and to grow and contribute to the company,” he says.