The “Millennial Generation,” or Generation Y, those born between 1982 and 2000 (although some sources say as early as 1977 and as late as 2002), are entering the workforce and climbing the ranks at firms in increasing numbers. I spent a bit of time with my college-aged nieces this weekend and found myself “studying” them for the characteristics we tend to believe about the “younger folks,” including that they are:

  • Unafraid to speak their mind or question others
  • Technology savvy
  • Easily bored/distracted and expect fast access to information
  • Multi-taskers
  • Open with information and in constant communication
  • Of the mind that respect must be earned (title or status is irrelevant)
  • Goal oriented
  • Team players
  • Fair and ethical
  • Advocates for diversity
  • Reached by humor and straight talk

While we can’t put anyone in a “bucket” based on their generation, or any other factor for that matter, I think these are all fair descriptions of the Gen Y individuals I know. But, problems may arise with other generations, especially in the workplace, when we don’t understand or don’t appreciate the differences that exist among the generations. When we see differences, it’s easy to dwell on the “negative” aspects and make others wrong for how they differ from us.

Instead, consider how you can create cultural empathy and appeal to the different generations in your firm. You may need to make some adjustments to maximize employee productivity, retention, and the success of your organization.

For instance, Gen Y individuals (and others!) appreciate a large amount of freedom and flexibility on the job. Consider upgrading your infrastructure to maximize your employees’ access to technology and information, providing them with remote access and equipment that enables them to work anytime, from anywhere. Your team will surprise you by their efficiency and willingness to work evenings and weekends if they can do so from home (or elsewhere).

In addition, your younger team members will respond best when you:

  • Set their expectations up front and give them the big picture on your firm’s mission, vision, values, and their role in meeting your firm’s goals
  • Clearly define their roles and responsibilities in writing (to speak to their need to feel that their job is important)
  • Give them ample opportunities for self-development and improvement
  • Directly interact with them regardless of your reporting structure
  • Model the behaviors you expect from them – remembering that they will only respect you if you do what you ask them to do
  • Performance manage them with “straight talk” – sharing the good and bad with them
  • Speak their language where possible, meaning that you take the time to understand the phrases and words that they use when speaking to one another
  • Have a sense of humor in your communications - one-on-one and in group meetings. Take the time to have fun!

Generation Y is commonly known for their willingness to change jobs frequently. Without some of these important factors in the workplace, your Gen Y team members simply won’t stay employed with your firm long-term – unless their personality identifies them more strongly with another generation. These are your firm’s future leaders! It’s vital to engage them now and retain them for an enduring career with your firm.

What adjectives come to your mind when you hear “Generation Y?” What generational gaps or issues exist in your firm? How have you bridged differences among your team members or what changes have been made to accommodate these differences?

Please comment with your thoughts on this subject!

Warm regards,

Krista Remer

P.S. For more “generational talk,” come to our next web seminar entitled, “Managing Millennials and Motivating Your Team” on September 20th. Find out more and register at “See” you there!