Most Bang for Your Buck: Five Principles on Retaining Generation Y Managers


We’re called Generation Y: people born between 1978 and 1994, and we’re rapidly climbing the business ladder. As more and more of us rise to entry level management positions, it’s increasingly important for upper management to understand how we young managers think in order to keep our interest in the organization.

I speak from the front line living this reality day in and day out. Straddling the line between a lack of experience in the people leader arena and knowing that there is a better way to do things.  I think it is safe to say that my generation’s access to the world  has given us an intellectual boost in absorbing and applying newly generated information. While being a Generation Y manager has been an uphill battle, this doesn’t mean that there aren’t ways to keep us engaged as we inherit the baton of ushering in the new world of work.

Warning: I’m going to bounce from first to third person which will drive all you copy editors out there absolutely bananas. But hey, it’s my blog – so read at your own discretion. Just try not to wince too much that you miss the point. =) Consider yourself warned.

Here are five strategies employers  may find useful in retaining Generation Y managers and cultivating our growth in the organization.

Get Involved

It’s not just about making small talk in the hallway about how the weekend went or walking In a study done by Dr. Alison MacLeod, she sought to determine the behavior of Generation Y managers: our work-life balance, internet habits, career goals and more. Only 41% of Generation Y managers in this study reported regular reviews with line managers. Not bad right? It leads me to believe that this is a symptom of a much larger problem and is directly related to the fact that younger managers don’t have the same organizational loyalty to traditional corporate views as those that are more senior.

While part of this can be attributed to additional time invested by a senior manager; the disconnect between upper management and Generation Y managers needs to be remedied if organizations want to retain Generation Y managers in the long term.

Getting involved does not necessarily need to translate to increased supervision or micromanagement. In fact, evidence suggests that Generation Y managers are very proactive and independent. However, we require consistent feedback that helps us identify strengths and weaknesses and points out avenues toward increased education and eventual responsibility.

Give Us Room to Grow

Generation Y managers are incredibly driven regarding learning new skills and progressing up the corporate structure as quickly as possible, sometimes to our own detriment. As an employer, it is in your best interest to offer us as much career development as possible, because we typically aren’t afraid to walk away and join another organization where the career development is perceived to be greater. Generation Y managers get the most satisfaction from professional courses and qualifications, so an organization that provides a constant path upward toward ever more certifications will retain a Generation Y manager longer than one that does not. Blended learning, the practice of utilizing professional online networks to encourage more personal contact between younger managers and our mentors has been found to be an effective supplement to professional learning.

If the organization has no career development in the manager’s current sector, job rotation is another way of keeping  managers engaged and retaining them within the organization.

Emphasize Positive Organizational Effects

90% of Generation Y managers surveyed said they wanted to work for an organization they can believe in. This was the point that was common to the greatest number of study responses. With such agreement, organizations would do well to bear this in mind when constructing a workplace culture. This culture doesn’t need to be heavy handed and attempt to drum up corporate pride through traditional motivational methods; it can be as simple as pointing out the ways in which the organization is positively contributing to society and encouraging employees to take part in volunteer efforts and other programs that highlight social responsibility. As managers grow older, it becomes increasingly important that our organization have strong values, and a constant commitment to corporate social responsibility will go a long way toward satisfying our need to believe in the positive effect of our organization on society.

Maintain Flexibility

One of our greatest frustrations is the inability of organizations to change to reflect new realities, whether technological, organizational or otherwise. We want our organization to be as flexible as we are, able to alter its approach to best take advantage of new technologies or respond to changing market conditions. Upper management needs to respond more positively when we identify policies or procedures that are ineffective or counterproductive. If items are necessary for reasons unknown to the manager, explaining them will help further our education while instilling the feeling that our input is valued nonetheless.

Don’t Lose Sight of Traditional Benefits

Although Generation Y certainly appreciates the more exotic benefits that have popped up in companies over the last several years, they are no substitute for traditional perks such as financial incentives and healthcare. Other lifestyle benefits did not enter into a manager’s decision of whether to remain with a particular organization or look elsewhere. The only exception to this rule lies in wellness and fitness benefits, which were appreciated more than any other such benefit.

Overall, the number one item we seek as Generation Y managers is transferable skills. If your organization meets this need while at the same time providing constructive, regular feedback, embracing new technology, acknowledging and considering recommendations and reinforcing the positive actions of your organization on society, it will be in the best possible position to recruit and retain Generation Y managers as we continue to make our way up the organizational chart.

So, was that an exhaustive list or what? In all candor, my experience as a Generation Y manager has been a positive experience. While its had its pot holes and waterfalls, at the end of the day, if you are really passionate about what you do it’s not going to matter what generation you come from anyway. It’s going to matter how you handle the evolution of the new world of work.

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