Creating Organisations Fit for Generation Y

If you are already a leader, you are most likely not from Generation Y (Millennials.) You are more likely to be a “Baby Boomer” or from “Generation X.” With this, as we grow older, we begin to notice our way of doing things is not to the same as our children.

We begin to ask ourselves questions like:

Why aren’t they behaving as we want them to? How will our organisations survive with behavior patterns like this? How do we change them?

 Us & Them Thinking

“Two roads diverged in a wood – I took the one less Tweeted about.”

It’s easy to think about “us” and “them” with the problem-side-of-the-equation usually emanating from “them.” Even when we try to empathise with Millennials (the “them,”) we think from the context of our own early lives.

We hear, “I remember being a teenager and I didn’t act like that. So why do you?

The point we miss in this type of reaction is that we are all physically and mentally molded by our complex changing experiences.

Our Brains are Plastic

“The send button is mightier than the sword.”

Billions of synapses form and break in our brains every second in response to sensory inputs and feedback from thoughts and emotions. If the intensity and quality of those inputs changes our brains adapt to meet these new demands.

Now think about the effects over the last fifty years of television, computer games and the internet. As we get older our brains become less plastic with differences between older and younger people becoming more obvious and extreme.

In the transmission of human culture, people always attempt to replicate, to pass on to the next generation the skills and values of the parents, but the attempt always fails because cultural transmission is geared to learning, not DNA.” ~ Gregory Bateson

How are Millennials Different?

“Keep your friends closer but your profile even closer.”

Millennials think differently. They have different value systems and are uncomfortable in hierarchical structures. Joan Snyder Kuhl discusses how leaders can invest in Milennials for the future of their organization.

“If your company can transform the way it operates to match the way these new workers think, live, and work, you will reap the rewards.” ~ Brian Halligan

Plastic Adaptive Organisations 

No matter how charismatic, leaders are powerless to counteract decades of social conditioning. It’s more sensible and productive long-term, to flex organisational cultures to accommodate Millennials and capitalise on their energy.

Perpetuating current structures and practices places Millennials in psychological conflict resulting in stress, loss of quality and poor productivity.

The way people work best continues to change and leaders and organisations who can’t or won’t adapt will fail to attract and keep talented young people.

Supporting the Millennial Mission

As years go by each generation faces the challenge of integrating younger people. The two different generational cultures want to work together but the balance of power is unequal. The “older establishment” has power and perpetuates current ideology whilst the Millennials have little power but have huge energy and a strong desire for meaning.

How do Millennials differ from earlier generations? Money, promotion, and retirement plans are modest millennial drivers. They are driven more by meaningful missions like transforming society and replacing unsustainable industries. Many feel want to save the planet, feed the starving, cure HIV or eradicate inequality; it’s a bonus if they make a healthy income along the way.

They love to learn, wish to be treated as adults seek solutions and move rapidly from job to job. Their attention span may be short but they can have great focus. Consider the concentration required to play computer games for four hours!

“Oldies” are the “change management” generation; reacting to change. Millennials live in constant and accelerating change and are better equipped and more comfortable with the concept of intentional re-invention.

Flexing Organisational Culture

Many Millenials, have a natural entrepreneurial tendency  and adaptive leaders harness their enthusiasm. Adaptive leaders re-frame organisational purpose and vision. Consider an organisation which is dedicated to encouraging its staff to focus more effectively and more rewardingly.

Organisations which capitalise on the way Millennials think, live, and work rather than impeding them with old outdated systems and structures, will reap the rewards of the millennial “bonus”.

“The young do not know enough to be prudent, and therefore they attempt the impossible — and achieve it, generation after generation.” ~ Pearl S Buck

When Millennial Take Charge

In time Millenials will take over the reins and develop leadership styles of their own. In their review, Adapting leadership theory and practice for the networked millennial generation, Janis Bragan Balda and Fernando Mora conclude this:

It is possible that they (“Millenials”) conceive of their role not as other directed (as traditional servant leadership theory would envision leadership), however, but as service and action oriented for the benefit of others as well as for themselves.”

Boomers” along with “Generation X” leaders are 100% responsible the world in which our children and grandchildren grew and hence for the ways their brains and behaviours developed. I apportion no guilt or judgement in this assertion but just as the rate of cultural change increases so will the rate at which existing leaders need step aside for the new breed.

Parents often talk about the younger generation as if they didn’t have anything to do with it.”  ~ Dr Haim Ginott

 Think On These 

Things you might consider today

  • On a scale of 1 to 10, how aware are you of the needs and strengths of Millennials?
  • Take a minute to talk to young people in your organisation. Ask them why they came to work here and the ways they like to work (make sure they know you are just trying to learn from them!)?
  • How well does your organisation align with their needs and harness their strengths effectively for mutual benefit and achievement?
  • What might you do to continue the conversation and evolve your culture?

Recommended reading:

Generation We: How Millennial Youth are Taking Over America and Changing the World - Eric H. Greenberg & Karl Weber


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 Gary Coulton

Dr Gary R Coulton is CEO of Adaptive Intelligence Consulting Limited
He empowers leaders to release their Adaptive Intelligence
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Generation “Y” Employment: The Candidate Perspective

Generation Y

Today, employment ads from recruiters and HR generalists are on the rise despite the current economic woes canvasing the nation. This is a good sign that the economy is starting to gradually improve in some areas.

As Generation Y (“Gen Y“) job candidates are an ever-growing part of the applicant pool for employment openings at corporations, companies may need to re-evaluate their Gen Y recruiting strategies to meet workforce demands.

Hasty Makes Wastey

Recruiting today seems to be a rush-job. And it usually looks takes a one-size-fits-all approach toward sizing up talent. To fulfill the open employment requisition, recruiters get a position description and scour the internet for a match. Recruiters find a CV (resume) that matches the position description and then simply send an often-canned, cold and generic email.

With this type of lackadaisical approach to finding talent, recruiting today has become less and less personalized.

Many companies do not embrace a diverse recruiting strategy that mirrors the current diverse pool of applicants. This approach is not always the best means to attract certain qualified talent, particularly Gen Y talent. I’ve seen minimal use of cross-generational recruiting because of the lack of a recruiting strategy and approach based on different demographics.

A Baby Boomer will not respond to the same style and approach of recruiting as a Gen-Y’er.

A Customized Approach

Generations view things differently and thus expect different ways of being recruited. With an ever-changing and more diverse workforce, recruiting must become more unique and customized if organizations wish to attract the best possible Gen Y talent.

So how do you properly hire and retain Gen Y talent?

The Right Steps

In order to get the best talent from the Gen y talent pool, follow these steps to make sure you are taking the appropriate approach to connecting in a manner that serves you and your candidates best.

First Contact

Gen Y values a personalized touch. A canned and generic email will often turn them off immediately to a potential new position. If sending an email inquiry to a potential Gen Y candidate, use their name, not “dear candidate.” Take the time to discuss why you think they may be a fit for the role as it relates to their own experience.

This lets them know you have actually reviewed their CV and job goals and not just mass emailed based on a keyword search. Gen Y also values details, so for the quickest possible response, include the job description, and why you see them as a fit in the first correspondence.


Gen Y is a tech-savvy generation. If first contact regarding a possible new role peaks their interest, they waste no time in responding. They utilize the technology at their finger tips (WiFi, Blackberry email etc.) to promptly express interest.

They expect the same in return.

If your organization has high interest in the candidate, then don’t let communication lapse. Respond proactively, promptly, and personalized with establish next steps.


Once the time for the first conversation has been set, use that time to set clear expectations with the potential Gen Y candidate. Take the time to explain in detail what they can expect in the new role and from the organization, and what would be expected of them. Be congruent, honest, and transparent about everything from salary and work life balance, to culture and roles and responsibilities.

Gen Y is very tuned into organizational culture.

One of the main reasons Gen Y talent tends to leave an organization within the first year is because what they were told they can expect is not the reality. Try and prevent this from the first conversation.


Be prepared for Gen Y to ask detailed questions regarding not just the potential role but the organization overall. Gen Y views interviewing as a two-way process. Often recruiters don’t have the specific information required to answer certain questions.

If this is the case, make sure the people the candidate interviews with are knowledgeable of the various parts of the organization and can answer specific questions.


If the process leads to making a job offer, then do not only do so in writing, but also make the personalized phone call. This call should come from the person who will be the candidate’s direct supervisor. Often disconnects exist between recruiting and the actual departments and managers who the employee will be working with.

Gen Y values open and honest communication in all directions.

Having the opportunity to speak directly with the individual they will be reporting to offers them the opportunity to begin to build a relationship immediately and get any last-minute questions and concerns addressed.

After the offer is accepted, the next step is a process called on-boarding, but it doesn’t end there. Recruitment is phase one, once the employee joins the organization focus must be placed on engagement and retention – success is an ongoing cycle.


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Scott Span
 is President of Tolero Solutions OD & Change Management firm
He helps clients be responsive, focused, and effective to facilitate sustainable growth
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Five Ways to Manage High Potential Gen Y Employees

Without a doubt, Generation Y is the workforce that requires the greatest amount of effort to manage when compared to any other in history. They want feedback NOW, they want training NOW, they want recognition NOW, and they want to create the lifestyle they desire NOW.

As demanding as it seems, there is a bright side to this high energy. If managers can learn how to harness their energy and coach them effectively, these young employees have the potential to be the highest producing generation ever. Below are some guiding principles that KLR Consulting research has found to work with Gen Y.

5 Principles of Successful Millennial Management


You Be the Leader

This generation has grown up with structure and supervision, with parents who were role models. The “You be the parent” TV commercials are right on. Millennials are looking for leaders with honesty and integrity. It’s not that they don’t want to be leaders themselves; they’d just like some great role models first. Though leading by example and working in the trenches with them, you will earn their respect, loyalty and might even have some fun along the way.


Consistently Provide Constructive Feedback and Recognition

Don’t wait for performance evaluations to tell them what they’re doing wrong or right. Do it daily. Tell them how to improve today. Avoid harping on the negative and accentuate the positive and most importantly, get them back on track immediately. Let them know when they have done a good job. Tie rewards and incentives to one thing and one thing only: performance.

And make sure to deliver them in close proximity to the event.

Then, create formal and informal mentoring partnerships where there can be constant exchange of knowledge, experience, and skills. They can teach the older pros about the latest technology and the older folks can share their historical memory, skills, knowledge and wisdom.

“If your top management isn’t spending at least a half day a month sitting down with someone twenty-five years old or younger, then they are blowing it.”  ~ Tom Peters


Provide Opportunities for Learning and Career Development

Gen Ys have high expectations of themselves. They want to be challenged and make meaningful contributions right away. They want opportunities to use the knowledge, skills and talents they have to solve problems, to innovate and to lead. A recent Randstad employee survey found that “trying new things” was the most popular item. They’re looking for growth, development and a career path.

Gen Yers are poised to be lifelong learners. For managers this means making training and development an organizational obsession.

Gen Yers will get bored and start updating their resumes if they stop learning.


Create a “Fun” Work Environment

Employers who embrace a fun, rather than traditional or conventional, company culture create a higher rate of job satisfaction with younger employees. What does fun mean? To Gen Y, it means converting the break room to a game room with video games and foosball. It means periodically bringing in a massage therapist for chair massages, an ice cream cart for sundaes, or a rolling barista for onsite lattes. It means setting up “work vacations” where a team gets to work on a project from a vacation house by the beach.

Relax the dress code while you’re at it.


Offer Flextime, Telecommuting and Other Benefits

Offering a variable work schedule–flexible hours or working from home–goes a long way toward attracting and retaining Gen Y talent. Flex time lets employees avoid rush hour traffic, attend a child’s event, or go surfing. Many Yers feel flex time and telecommuting make their lives better.

Gen Y is highly proficient with e-mailSMS messagingSkype video callingblogsforums and virtual online workrooms, they don’t see a need to be physically present in the same office to collaborate, solve problems or produce products.

If someone wants to take a two-hour break in the afternoon to go workout or take a nap, don’t drill them about where they were. If they want to finish their work from home at midnight, who cares as long as the work gets done.Employers who recognize and adapt to Gen Y’s needs will retain them longer and get more productive work from them.

While Gen Y is high-maintenance, the effort may just create the highest-producing generation in history.


What are you doing to better reach your high potential Gen Y Employees? Where have you failed in this arena? What best practices could you share? I would love to hear your thoughts on this!


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Kristi Royse

Kristi Royse is CEO of KLR Consulting
She inspires success in leaders and teams with coaching and staff development

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