Image: How to Engage Gen Y Employees

Case study: Some interesting facts about Gen Y in the modern workplace

This week I thought I’d focus on the ‘big picture’ in the current world of workplace engagement. I came across an article by Jullien Gordon on the behavioural aspects of Gen Y employees and the challenge of value alignment in modern management.

“Gen Y want to feel as though they are contributing more than just a number”

As a Gen Y employee myself, I confess that I am not enthusiastic about work unless I find meaning within it. I’ve grown up and been educated through an era that promotes individuality – to follow a career path that directly correlates with my own interests and strengths, ultimately allowing for me to excel in what I chose to do for work.

Following from this, Gordon hits the mark accurately; writing that Gen Y have a tendency to always ask and analyze before taking on any job, including:

  • Where will this take me?
  • Why is the company doing things this way?
  • Why do they need me to do it?
  • Is it worth taking on the responsibility?
  • How will it benefit me?

Resonating with these points, I believe it’s crucial that managers adapt to these changing demographics and make a significant effort to meet the needs of their employees. With a huge boom in technological advancement and the use of social media; the attention span of a Gen-Y employee can be very short.

A great way to maintain engagement and focus at work is by utilising varying, effective forms of communication. There has been long debate over the use of technology (such as Skype and e-mailing) vs. face to face collaboration in the workplace and, with tech-savvy Gen-Y employees; a good balance needs to be enforced in order to achieve maximum focus and engagement.

Stemming from finding the correct balance is the need to develop goals relative to the values of the individual employee and the company itself. According to Gordon, the top 6 values for Gen Y are:

  1. Education
  2. Work-life balance
  3. High responsibility (even if pay doesn’t match)
  4. Social impact
  5. Creativity
  6. Entrepreneurship

With university degrees and other tertiary diploma’s being much more common with Gen-Y and Z employees, education has evolved into more of an added perk, relating to ‘learning on the job’ with practical skills and/or experience that a degree or diploma usually does not encompass. It’s this form of education that is becoming one of the most important values within engagement; where once an employee is given the opportunity to expand their expertise they can utilize them regularly and can be motivated to achieve more challenging goals.

Providing an even work-life balance for younger employees is also crucial to maintaining long-term engagement. Allowing for incentives such as flexible working hours or work from home days can be powerful ‘safety nets’ that prevent work dissatisfaction. These incentives also tie in directly with providing individuals with greater responsibilities and building positive working relationships that can assist in building a better foundation to make the company’s culture look more appealing and welcoming to younger employees.

Social impact is something that ties in directly with responsibility. A Gen-Y/Z employee wants to complete work that means something and contributes to society or a ‘greater cause’ in some way. It’s important for managers to identify the goals of the individual employee and draw a link between them with the company’s overall long-term vision.

Whilst entrepreneurship can be a difficult value to promote within an established company, it’s important to foster creativity and listen to the ideas and inputs from each individual worker. By acknowledging the creative input of each employee, managers can ultimately find that ‘inner drive’ of an individual. Once this has been ignited, businesses will be able to unlock the full potential of their staff by allowing them to focus less on Facebook and more on achieving the goals and vision of the company itself.

Developing innovative engagement strategies such as those by Google and Zappos is becoming a necessity in modern Gen-Y employee engagement practice – in previous posts I’ve discussed the advantages of 20% time and other incentives that have a positive long term impact on business productivity.

“Millennials want to create value, feel valued and do work that is in alignment with their values”

By implementing unique engagement strategies and fostering individual values; Gen-Y employees can be motivated to come into work each day and achieve goals to the best of their ability. Giving out positive feedback and daily recognition can promote further motivation and achievements as well as developing a warm and welcoming company culture in the long-run.


Align values, engage and motivate with WooBoard; an employee recognition platform that encourages happier, more productive workplaces.
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photo credit:
JD Hancockcc

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