Managing and Motivating the Younger Generation


What Young Employees Want

One of the most challenging issues facing managers today is managing and motivating the Younger Generation. Many think it’s impossible to bridge the gap, yet others have been very successful in obtaining high performance from “Gen Y.” They have realized that it’s a myth that young people don’t want to work hard.

Assuming that you’ve hired someone with a good attitude, with the right motivation, this generation is creative, has high energy and more than willing to be a high contributor. Here’s what they want:

The Voice of the Younger Generation

“I want an interesting and challenging job.”

The younger generation has much shorter attention span. If you want to retain your younger workers they want more than “a job.” They want interesting and challenging work. It’s the challenging part of the job they enjoy. They are attracted to and will likely stay in environments where they are challenged. If their job role is repetitious, assign them to a task force, put them on a project, and by all means, cross train them.

“I want to work for a company with a great future.”

Many young employees do not know the “vision” of their top executive.  A younger employee will not be satisfied to stay with an organization that doesn’t communicate leadership direction. Communicate your company’s direction with clarity and consistency, and ask your younger workers to help define that direction.

“I want to work for a company that’s well managed.”

Younger employees may not have experience, but they do recognize the importance of management’s performance. They become discouraged when their leaders are not performing well, and are not taking action where needed. Perhaps the sales reps aren’t getting the help they need, the parts department is a mess or service reps aren’t taking customer service excellence seriously. If the management of your company cannot effectively lead, nothing else matters to the younger generation. They will become frustrated. Worse, they will become demotivated and leave as soon as they get another opportunity.

“I want to work for a company that has strong values.”

Interestingly, the younger generation wants to work with company that espouses values in sync with their own. While the work and pay are important to younger workers, never underestimate the importance of values. There are many that are important, but young workers want to work with organizations whose core values include “Environmental Consciousness.” They grew up with learning the importance of Reduce, Reuse and Recycle. They will lose respect for a company that hasn’t adopted green practices.

 “I don’t necessarily want to work as hard as you so you need to give me a reason to be motivated, and that would be YOU.”

To motivate your young workforce, you’ve got to give them a reason to be motivated. Most have not internalized the importance of customer service or making a profit. At this age, they must want to follow your lead.

“I want a great boss who plays down authority, mentors me, recognizes my talents and believes in me.”   

Just because you are “the boss” doesn’t mean you automatically have the respect of the younger generation. You have to earn it. You earn it by playing down authority, taking a personal interest in them, mentoring then, and displaying the values of honesty, integrity, fairness, and all aspects of dynamic leadership.  Once a young worker trusts and respects you, they will perform for you even if they are not crazy about their job.

As busy as you are, find the time to ask your young employees what they enjoy doing in their spare time and what hobbies they have.     Ask where they see themselves in the future. Ask if they have personal and professional goals.  Once you are confident of the competency and quality of their work tell them you have every confidence in them and trust them. (That, in and of itself, is a very strong motivator.) Then, let them run with the ball. Don’t micromanage. Giving young people the responsibility and authority to accomplish results is one of the most effective ways to obtain the most from them.

“I want to be supported by my boss and my team.” 

Numerous studies have proven that young employees want to feel supported by their boss. When a customer walked into the facility of an equipment dealer a young sales person greeted him and offered his help. The customer’s body language revealed that he was “looking down” at the young sales person.  The customer said, “I want to speak to the owner,” and walked right past him.  The owner took care of the customer. The young salesman was embarrassed, felt inferior and was demotivated. The owner should have told the customer that the young salesperson knew the equipment better and applications better than anyone else and influenced the customer to work with him. He should have supported his young employee.

“I want to understand how my boss thinks.”

The days of “do what I tell you to do and if you don’t like it don’t let….” are over forever.  When interacting with younger employees, take a few minutes to explain your rationale on how you think and why you do things the way you do. Just three short minutes of explanation can make young employees feel they are gaining insight. It also makes them a better employee because it teaches them how you think.

“I want to be accepted and treated exactly the same as every other employee, even if I don’t have the same amount of experience.”  

Treat young employees the same as your seasoned employees. If you don’t, they will pick up on it immediately. Remind your seasoned employees that younger employees must be treated with the same importance and respect as others and explain why diversity in age groups is beneficial to every team.

“I want to have a voice in the decision-making.”

Young workers enjoy working for organizations and departments that have a high level of employee involvement–where they can participate in idea-sharing and problem-solving sessions. Their ideas can be fresh and new. Include young employees in these sessions or place them on task forces to help in this area. Ask for their opinions on a frequent basis. Give them a say in how work on a project gets done.

“I’d rather go home on time to be with friends and family because I value life-balance more than you do.”

Young employees look upon their job as “what they do between weekends.”  They value life-balance, and if they have to work longer hours, they become unhappy unless rewarded.  Although your company may be understaffed, let all of your employees go home early on their birthday. Give them a couple hours off if they put in overtime without pay.

“I want to flex hours, and the ability to work from home if possible.”

If your company can give employees flex hours, by all means do so. More and more businesses are accommodating young employees with children.  If they ask to work from home and it fits with their job function, give it a trial period first.

 “I want great technology, social media access and the ability to work remotely.”

Young people grew up with technology and social media. They treasure their devices and social networks. They are constantly connected to information and communicating with peers. Their brains are trained to ingest, filter and process information from many sources quickly. If you want your young employee to be able to relate to you and you still don’t know how to send a text message, now would be a good time to learn. Studies have proven they prefer communication via technology. Their ease in learning new software can help others in your company learn how to use it.

“I want training.”

Training young employees demonstrates that they are important to you. Smart managers set up regular teaching sessions for them on different parts of the business. Some companies even do rotation programs for promising younger talent. Others set up workshops to expose younger employees to different aspects of the business. If you recognize leadership ability, tell them you recognize them as a future leader in your company and train them on how to demonstrate leadership. Remind them that they don’t need a title to be a leader.


“I want to be appreciated for my work.”

As Dale Carnegie said, “All human beings have two invisible signs. One says, “Make me feel important.” The other says, “Appreciate me.” Younger people want, need and respect and approval, and to feel a sense of accomplishment. Tell younger workers that you have observed their hard work, and how much you appreciate it.

“I like informal environments and may not have the understanding of professionalism as you do.”

Explain how to answer the phone… what to wear, what not to wear when you hire young people.  Ask them to define professionalism and help them to understand what it is.

“I want to work at a place that I look forward to going to work each day, and maybe even have some fun.” 

Fun in the workplace. What a novel idea! Most people think that we need to take our work seriously. Of course we do, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t have a little fun along the way. Learn to make work as fun as possible. Sales contests and games work very well with the younger generation. Have friendly competitions between teams for predetermined goals. Friendship at work is important to them too. Form clubs that include a “Rising Leaders Club” for young employees where they meet for after work social activities.

Managing and motivating the Younger Generation involves a great deal more. For now, imagine you are in your twenties, and ask yourself this question:

Would you work for you?

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About Christine Corelli

Christine Corelli is a motivational, keynote, business, leadership, sales, and customer service speaker, sales trainer, and author of six business books. As a keynote speaker, she is known for her high energy and interactive speaking style.

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