The 7 Most Effective Ways to Recruit, Retain and Motivate Your Youngest Generation

2006 is a year of great excitement for the Baby Boomers, as they begin to turn 60 and move toward retirement. The organizations that employee this generation – the largest generation in history – are beginning to realize the importance of “knowledge transfer” – or “succession planning” – and are beginning to ask the question “how do we recruit and retain the next generation of leaders?” The answer lies in the approach to understanding, motivating and mentoring this generation that grew up with/in an environment of instinct gratification and a lack of parental guidance. Recognizing these differences, and the different way in which they view the world is critical to meeting them where they are and developing them into the next generation of leaders.

I sometimes hear frustration from organizational leaders that the younger generation has an “entitlement mentality,” they lack loyalty, and don’t want to pay their dues. In fact, compared with previous generations, in general they do share different values that can create those perceptions. Organizations and leaders can respond in a number of ways: they can churn these employees until they find some with the “proper” attitude; they can hire them and try to mold them into the corporate structure; or they can avoid hiring them. The most successful companies will be those who can attract them, create an environment in which they can thrive, and learn to leverage their differences into assets for the company. Just as successful companies have learned to respond to market threats and opportunities, they too will find the opportunity provided by the attitudes, skills, and perspective of the new generation.

The following tips are meant to help foster a greater understanding of Generation X and Y employees, what they may be looking for, ways to gain their commitment and loyalty, and tap into their uniqueness.

1. Mentorship
As an organization leading this generation, you must make a commitment to creating effective mentoring programs. The younger generation is impatient, raised in a fast-paced world dominated by technology and instant gratification – they need guidance.

While the younger generation is screaming for balance in their lives, they are also craving challenging work. They want the challenge and they need the guidance.

2. Coaching – Communicate and Connect
Separate and distinct from mentorship, coaching goes to a much deeper level. While mentoring is about showing the way, sharing experiences and transferring knowledge, coaching is about helping them get to know what they want, who they are and what experiences might serve their needs best.

Providing feedback and support to this generation is essential – they want to grow – AND – they want to know what they can do to contribute to their company and their community.

3. Provide Training and Development
Much like the Baby Boomers, this generation is education focused – they love to learn. In fact, many experts label this group as the most education- oriented generation in history. If we do not provide training and development to this generation, they will quickly lose interest and become disengaged in their work.

4. Design a Plan
With both parents working, this generation was raised by institutions and the media. Institutions told them exactly where to be and when to be there and media told them exactly what to think and who they should be – they were not challenged to think for themselves. Now – they’re out in the working world expected to know how to manage their time, set goals for their future and manage their career and they don’t know how. Helping them to create a plan for their future will help them to be present and motivated in their current role. Without a plan they will not understand why it might be good to stay a few extra hours to complete an assignment – they need to see and be excited about the bigger picture.

5. Be Flexible – Balance
Encourage their values. The younger generation has seen what working 80 hours a week can do to their health and their families. They desire a work place and a work load that will allow them to have the flexibility to balance the many different components of their lives – setting an 8-5 work day may not work for all employees. Truth be told, some people do their best work at mid-night – why not let people work during the times they are at their best? Let them know when they need to be there for meetings and let them figure out the rest – after all, getting the work done is the most important – manage that and let them manage the rest.

6. Opportunities to give back/Volunteer
This generation has an intense desire to make a difference in the world. Allowing them to take paid time away once or twice a month to be of service to their community will make a huge difference for them – not to mention the positive outlook the community will have on your company!

7. Responsibility
This generation seeks freedom and desires responsibility – they want to be a part of the decision making process. Hand them the work, set a deadline, be available for questions/support – then let them figure out how to get it done on time. If they can’t manage to get their work in on time, you might ask how you can help them reach their deadlines – they may need to take a time management course!

Below are some messages to motivate our youngest talent, Zemke (2000):

You’ll work with other bright, creative people.

Your boss is in his (or her) sixties.

You and your coworkers can help turn this company around.

You can be a hero here.

Do it your way.

We’ve got the newest hardware and software.

There aren’t a lot of rules here.

We’re not very corporate.

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