Sunday, October 7, 2007

Recruiting and Keeping the Y Generation

Forget about “Gen X,” the new crop of young faces leaving college and showing up in your offices is commonly referred to as “Gen Y,” and they have different perspectives and needs from us “old heads” and even their close cousins, the X’ers. Given that the most important game in business these days is the talent game, it is important to understand Gen Y needs and how you can meet them.

Provide meaningful work that contributes to the organization’s mission. That may sound silly to you for an entry position, but it isn’t to them. And don’t assume that they will just “get it,” either. Tell them why they are doing what they do and how their work supports and advances important goals.

Mentor intentionally. The younger generation has a need to be and feel nurtured. Good mentoring will meet their need and simultaneously enhance their current and future value to the organization. And, don’t limit it to just one person. Mentoring by their first level supervisor can focus on tactical and organizational issues while mentoring from a more senior executive will help them feel validated and provide a more strategic view to their future.

Help them develop networks. Encourage their participation in professional associations and design networking events for your company. Importantly, Gen Y’ers want to know where the people who used to work for you are now. Have their careers been successful? The answer to that question will carry a lot of weight as they evaluate your organization and you while deciding to join or stay.

Focus performance reviews on the future. Poor performance or “issues” should be dealt with immediately, either at the end of the project or as soon as possible. The annual performance review may need to look back to those briefly, but should generally be a look forward. Discuss next steps in their careers and what it takes to accomplish those. One good way to do this is to think about their resume. Since their need is to be nurtured with an emphasis on career development, then put your coaching and feedback into that mold. Have them bring their resume to the review meeting and spend time discussing how what they have done over the past year enhances their resume. Use it to demonstrate your concern and interest in their development.

Bottom line, this generation of workers needs and wants to be nurtured, and they want to know how you are advancing their careers. You should not accept sub-par performance from them any more than you would others. But they are different and your method of communicating with them needs to adapt to the way they listen.

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