Archive for May, 2009

Generation Y: are we preparing leaders to deal with new workers’ expectations?

May 17, 2009

Things are not how they used to be. Employee expectations have definitely changed with regard to work. Leaders can no longer ignore these new expectations nor refuse to adapt their leadership style and methods to deal with these new expectations.

For the baby-boomer generation (1945-late 60s), optimism was the key mood. The ethos was hard work and focus was on serving your time and proving your loyalty to your organization. Baby-boomers were happy to stay in the same company doing the same job and were not particularly demanding in terms of careers, mobility, promotion, etc.

For generation X (70s-80s), the approaching end of the cold war brought uncertainty, counterbalanced by strong political leadership. Workers continued to demonstrate commitment to work and demonstrate strong work ethos.

With generation Y, the nineties generation, this has all changed. This generation no longer demonstrates blind faith in authority and is ready to challenge and be outspoken. This generation is used to being praised and encouraged every day. They expect to be recognized and rewarded more frequently than their predecessors (Generation Y is called by some the Trophy Generation). Furthermore, they’re now probably better equipped with the same or even better tools than work can provide them. So providing them with the basic tools such as a laptop and a mobile phone is not a bonus but merely basic. Generation Y are more autonomous, seek greater control over their work, are ready to be more accountable and are looking to make an impact on the bottom line. They’re loyal to their skill and not to their company. They no longer believe in hard work nor in working long hours.

According to research, generation Y workers have 4 key expectations:

1) Global collaboration : they expect to collaborate with colleagues globally and not be confined to a small network of contacts within their specific area;
2) Direct and instant access to management: They expect more direct and more frequent communication with managers. The hierarchical distance the baby boomer generation accepted is not acceptable to Generation Y.
3) Co-creation: They expect to co-create and work transversally to solve real business issues. Executing tasks or parts of a system or process will frustrate them greatly.
4) Control/personalized work: they expect to have more control over their work and be able to personalize their work to suit their personal routine.

What does this mean for leaders today who probably belong to the baby boomer or X generations?

Some suggestions for leaders managing in a generation Y environment:

1) Be available and accessible : practice an open door policy. People work for people so leaders need to get out from behind their desks
2) Focus more on empowering workers rather than adopting directive management styles
3) Develop innovative and diversified reward and recognition policies to recognize employee contributions more frequently
4) Include workers in the decision making process more often
5) Communicate constantly to workers not only what to do but why they should do it
6) Build collaborative teams which encourage team work and co-construction of solutions. Work in project management mode and allow team members to extend their network of connections
7) Be flexible in how work is organized and delegate real responsabilities and not simply tasks
8) Focus not only on the short term but also the long term: develop employees by offering them more structured career paths and internal mobility

Leaders today are facing a critical challenge: how to adapt their leadership practices and style to get the best out of Generation Y employees. They can’t do so alone. Organizations have a responsability to help managers understand how workers’ expectations have changed and how they can adapt their leadership style to these new conditions. More importantly, organizations needs to provide leaders with the tools and processes which allow leaders to reward and recognize, train and develop, empower generation Y employees more effectively.

View this video which presents the issues in a very concise way.

How are leaders dealing with the new work paradigm?


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