You would have to be living under a pretty big rock to miss the discussion about Generation Y, Millenials and Gen X taking over the business world. As we head into a substantial generational change-over with Boomers exiting and a whole “new” type of employee entering – most managers (if they are staying around) are a bit anxious. Much of the news about this shift has focused on how these new entrants are spoiled, dis-loyal, hard to manage, immature, etc.
Whether these labels are true or false – the real issue is they are interacting with companies, customers, competitors and managers much differently than previous generations. The Millenials, Gen Y’s and even some of the younger Gen Xers – have a different point of view on relationships – whether that is personal or professional.
As managers tasked with rewarding and motivating these new age employees we need some help. Some of the key things to keep in mind…
–New age employees don’t believe in top-down command and control. They’ve grown up on the ability to customize everything from their myspace page to their flickr files. Let them customize their incentive, reward and recognition programs. Create the shell – and ask them to fill in some of the blanks. The mere act of asking will go a long way toward positive connections.
–New age employees value peer recognition more than “boss” recognition. If you don’t engage their peers in the process of recognition and reward – it won’t be as effective. The “birthday lunch with the CEO” will have less impact than letting them choose who to bring to lunch – and the company picks up the tab.
–New age employees have a much broader (albeit weaker) network than most Boomers would even conceive of. Through the various social networks they belong to they have many, many connections. Most of which are “weak ties” but they are important to them. Don’t forget to think about how to connect their performance on the job to their electronic network – not just their physical network. Does your recognition program have a way to interact with Facebook or myspace to highlight their accomplishments?
–New age employees have very different opinions on what they think is motivating. The days of a “standard” catalog of merchandise to use as an incentive tool are long gone. See point number one – ask them what they want. They won’t be shy.
–New age employees aren’t afraid of calling B.S. on anything that isn’t fair, equitable, or real. And they won’t be afraid to tell everyone they can how it is wrong. If you think you can put something over on them – be careful. If you do – and they find out – it will be on 10,000 myspace pages, 200 blogs and a few hundred cell phones by the end of the day.
To sum up: Be honest, open, collaborative and fast. You’d be surprised how much you both will appreciate the results.
Paul Hebert is Vice President of Individual Performance Strategy at Creative Group Inc, writer, speaker and consultant. Paul focuses on influencing behaviors and driving business results through employees, channel partners and consumers. He is dedicated to creating true emotional connections often overlooked in our automated, tech-enabled world. Using proven motivational theory, behavioral economics and social psychology he has driven extraordinary company performance for his clients. Paul is widely considered an expert on motivation, incentives, and engagement.