Tips for Managing Generation Y Workers

Tips for Managing Generation Y Workers

Gen Y EmployeeI’m a baby boomer, and my youngest child is a member of Generation Y.  She’s a recent college graduate who’s just embarked on her career.

It’s been interesting observing her join the working world, and I’ve become more aware of how this generation is different from mine and others that have come before them in the workplace.

Gen Y presents interesting challenges and benefits for our businesses!  We’ve got a guide for getting the most out of these young workers!

What is Generation Y?

There are various definitions of Generation Y, but it seems to broadly encompass those born somewhere between the early 1980s to the early 2000s.  They are also referred to as the Millennials or the Echo Boomers, as they are the offspring of the Baby Boomers.

They are estimated to number about 80 million people.  As all of these people join the workforce, our management styles need to accommodate this unique group of workers.  We raised them, and now we need to manage and motivate them to success!

I think the best approach to working with Gen Y employees is to try to understand their distinctive traits, and how to capitalize on them.  Here are ten tips for getting the best out of your Gen Y workforce:

Happiest with lots to do:

While growing up, the Gen Y child had a lot on his or her plate.  Sports, extracurricular activities, church groups, volunteering, excelling in school–we expected it all of them, in order for them to be successful.

The result is an adult who needs to be challenged and wants many projects to be worked on at the same time.  The Millennials’ upbringings produced people who appreciate deadlines, expect to be working towards goals, and work well within structure.

Positive high achievers:

Our Gen Y children grew up being told that they could be whatever they want to be, and accomplish whatever they set their minds to.  This means they enter the workforce armed with a lot of confidence and a can-do attitude.  Many have been high achievers in school, having routinely received praise from their teachers and professors.

They are not used to receiving criticism, or to not achieving their goals.  As managers, we need to build on the positive strengths of this type of attitude, while teaching them to maturely handle the realities of life in the workforce — including the fact that they will inevitably encounter failure and criticism in their working lives.

It is imperative that we show our Millennial employees how to transform failure and criticism into motivation to improve and try again.

Centers of the universe:

As parents, we tended to be very involved with these kids’ lives.  Now that they’re young adults, they are entering the workforce with the expectation that they will continue to receive lots of guidance and attention.

They flounder when left too long on their own without sufficient direction.  They want to know what’s expected of them and they want to understand how their role in the company fits into the larger business picture.

Giving your Gen Y staff a more complete and holistic understanding of their place within your business and what you need from them will allow you to tap into their significant capacity for passionately tackling the tasks they’re given.


Team sports and group projects have been the norm for this generation.  We’ve taught them that when they work with others as a team, they will accomplish more than they could on their own.

Smart companies will put them in a team environment, where they will have opportunities to collaborate with others.  They are not afraid to bring their ideas and solutions to the table, expecting to brainstorm and resolve problems.

Multitasking is a way of life:

It is not unusual to see a member of Gen Y watching TV, while simultaneously doing their homework, talking on their cell phone, and chatting on Facebook.  To them it’s not multitasking — to them, it’s just every day life.

They flourish in a fast paced multitasking work environment.  They enjoy moving from project to project, working on many things at the same time.  And they are bored to death when there is not a lot to do.

This is a trait you should attempt to fully take advantage of, but not without going overboard.  Pay close attention to your Gen Y’s productivity if you load them up with lots of duties that involve multitasking, to make sure that they aren’t handling more than they can actually process effectively.


Speaking of technology, these kids cut their teeth on it, and it’s been part of their lives as long as they can remember.  They are eager adopters of changing technology, and in their personal lives they will continue to utilize new technology as it becomes available.

They will not easily transition from a tech-savvy personal life to a tech-void workplace.  Companies will benefit by utilizing their interest in technology to improve processes that are already in place, as well as to inventively use it to enhance everything from marketing efforts to communication and employee relationships.

They want it all, and they want it now:

Not only have Millennials been avid users of technology, but they have grown up playing video games.  This access to immediate gratification and feedback has created a generation that requires all of that from their managers.

They can be impatient with inefficient processes, unproductive programs, and with unnecessary delays.  They want immediate responses, frequent feedback and the ability to affect change.

If your company is accustomed to providing performance reviews on an annual basis, this may not be the most ideal way to manage your Millennials.  Try providing feedback at the end of every project they complete, or meeting with them semi-regularly to discuss how they’re doing.

Tolerant of others:

Generation Y is a very racially and culturally diverse generation.  About one-half of them are Asian or Hispanic, many have gone to school with students of different racial or ethnic backgrounds, their families are more likely to involve a single parent or blended family, and they are much more accepting of gay and lesbian lifestyles.  In addition, their access to technology has given them friends all across the globe, shrinking their world.

They will be much less tolerant of workplace discrimination, and they are also much more tolerant of differences in each other.  For many of our businesses, the future involves globalization, and these young workers can help take us there.

They demand flexibility:

This generation has watched as their parents have worked long hours and burned themselves out, only to eventually be downsized by their companies.  Generation Y comes into the workforce void of corporate loyalty, knowing they will have many employers and many careers in their lives, and resolved to put themselves first.

They will utilize technology and social networks to find new opportunities for growth if their employers don’t provide it for them.  Their experiences with their parents’ lifestyles makes them demand work/life balance.

They will seek companies that offer family friendly workplaces and flexible work arrangements, endorse volunteer activities, and provide other amenities that support their personal values.  They appreciate a company that offers a fun work environment, where they can make friends and enjoy their workday.

Committed to the triple bottom line:

The Baby Boomer Generation told their children that they could and should make a difference in the world.

As they face an unstable economy, environmental concerns, corporate ills, political corruption, etc., they seek employers who share their personal values, and jobs that give them the opportunity to do more than take home a paycheck.

The triple bottom line of people, planet and profit and a commitment to social responsibility may be a requirement to attract and retain these workers.

The wrap-up:

As I counsel my Generation Y daughter as she navigates through the world of working, I realize that she has to bend somewhat to the workplace.  I also realize that she brings tremendous talent, a great education, a wide variety of experiences, solid values, and excellent skills to the working world.  She craves a company that will challenge her, demand a lot, utilize her strengths, make good use of her education, and enable her to make a difference.

Since we Boomers have decided we need to stay in the workforce for a while longer in order to regain equity in our retirement funds, we are going to have to make room for these bright, eager workers that have so much to bring to the table!