Tips on Managing Gen Y and Keeping Them Satisfied at Work: Guest Post by Anne Loehr

11 July 2011

Assistant Editor's Note: The following posts are from the blog of Anne Loehr, a Generational Speaker, Consultant and Author. Named the “Generational Guru” by The Washington Post, Loehr has worked with clients such as US Air Force, Morgan Stanley Smith Barney, American Red Cross, Johns Hopkins University and John Hancock. She is also the co-author of a new book, Managing the Unmanageable: How to Motivate Even the Most Unruly Employee. For information on how Gen Y consumers will impact your travel business, read the second installment of ATTA's quarterly trends article, Generation Y: Soon-to-Be Your Next Best Customers.

Keeping Gen Y Satisfied at Work

As a manager, you know that employees are more productive if they are more satisfied with their jobs. A January 2010 study by PWC Saratoga found that only 45% of Americans are satisfied with their job.

In addition, PWC Saratoga found that over the past two recessions (1991 and 2000), voluntary turnover increased an average of 13% during the two years following the actual recession.

So how does a manager engage her younger employees so that they are not only are satisfied with the job but also want to stay in their current job after this recession?

Gen Y professionals want careers that satisfy their personal and professional goals. They have grown up with the mentality that life is too short to stay in a job they hate.  While other generations may have put up with short-term dissatisfaction for longer-term results, Gen Y is unlikely to stick around if the benefits of a position or opportunity to grow are not immediately visible.  Remember, they don’t have many financial responsibilities and few are married; these lack of commitments make it easy to leave a job.

Gen Y are seeking flexible hours and opportunities to work from home.  They are seeking a positive, supportive work environment.  Gen Y need praise and appreciate mentorship.

Do you know what your younger employees are seeking?  Understanding and meeting their needs will lead to talent retention and a more profitable business in the long run. So start engaging them…NOW!

Does Gen Y Respond to a Teaching-Style of Management?

A recent post on the Harvard Business Review blog by Michael Fertik noted “The best managers of younger employees are people who would otherwise love teaching for a living.”

Do you agree?

We know that Gen Y seek praise and affirmation; they appreciate guidance and mentorship in the workplace. They are perceived as being sensitive to criticism and negative feedback, so many managers find that they need to be extra delicate when correcting Gen Y employees.  Fertik suggests that a teacher-type manager personality is more likely to appeal to Gen Y as the manager carefully explains tasks to Gen Y employee. This will engage Gen Y more, although it also risks being pedantic and condescending. So find the balance for your individual employee.

He offers a series of suggestions for “teaching/managing” Gen Y employees; the most helpful are:

  • Throw them into the deep end immediately (show them you trust them and encourage them to take responsibility)
  • Publicly acknowledge a job well done
  • Ask questions (show that their opinions matter; be sure to act on the good decisions)
But does this approach, as he suggests, teach them how to think in company terms, making them more valuable assets to the firm in the long run?  That’s the real question.

The entire list and his worthwhile blog post is here.