Motivating and Retaining Gen Y

At this time of year when a large number of Gen Y new graduates are entering the workplace (around 230,000 in the UK each year), let’s hope that their employers have sought to gain an understanding of their motivation and ambitions in order to optimize retention and performance. 

Gen Y are idealistic, digitally-enabled, social and ambitious and research* tells us they are likely to have a distinct set of characteristics and expectations from their managers.  The implications are that the management styles that may have worked for the Baby Boomers or Gen X may not have the same motivation factor them.


So how do you keep Gen Y interested, engaged and avoid demotivation or early departure?  Here are a few pointers:


1.       Start with the right candidate for the job

This may sound obvious but Gen Y does not see themselves as applicants and are just as likely to be interviewing you.  Provide a clear picture of the work offered, future advancement opportunities, training and earnings potential.  Honesty is the best policy or you are simply wasting time in recruiting.

2.       Gain a Better Understanding

Regular, open conversations about alignment of expectations and ambitions to the role and organization are key to ensure managers and graduates have a better understanding of each other.   Gen Y does not have the same expectation of job security as previous generations and indeed, they expect and even look forward to a number of careers.  The challenge therefore is harnessing their capabilities for as long as possible

3.       Coach vs. Manage

Gen Y have grown up in an era where they can find as much information they want, on almost any topic.  They value the experience and expertise of those managers who through coaching are able to engage and empower them to deliver without constraining their independence and entrepreneurial spirit.

4.       Provide Feedback

An annual or bi-annual performance review is not sufficient for Gen Y as they prefer and thrive on real-time feedback from their ‘coaching’ manager.


* Ashridge Business School and the Institute of Leadership and Management in the UK


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