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How to satisfy the Generation Y worker

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Monday, October 01, 2007


THEY ARE YOUNG, smart and tech-savvy. Their high self-esteem results from years of parental encouragement. Look out human resources: Generation Y is entering the workforce 80 million strong. This group of young adults, born between the late 1970s and 1990, is the largest demographic after the baby boomers, who are getting ready to retire in droves. (See LABOR STRAINS)

Generation Y grew up during the corporate downsizing of the 1980s. Unlike their parents, they believe they’ll work for many companies throughout their career, explains Rich Meneghello, a partner at the Portland office of Fisher & Phillips, a law firm specializing in labor and employment. This group needs to feel connected and valued or they’ll take their talents elsewhere. And forget the three-piece suit.

These are adults who grew up in the age of personal computers, the Internet and child seatbelt laws.

Club membership isn’t enough for these workers; they need reasons to feel loyal to a company. Meneghello offers a few tips for companies looking to attract and retain Generation Y:

Provide mentoring. “They want access to the boss,” says Meneghello. Companies with established communication networks enable workers to feel their ideas are valued.

Allow autonomy. Gen Y works best when creatively tackling a problem. Meneghello says employers have to be open. “You can’t give the line ‘this is how we’ve always done it,’” he says.

Embrace current technology. This group grew up with computers and cell phones and let’s face it, they’ve probably helped you program yours. Gen Y workers will leave a workplace if they feel they lack access to resources.

Be flexible. Employers that are open to ideas such as telecommuting are more likely to appeal to Gen Y. Meneghello cautions employers to recognize this generation as a new group of people for whom the old ways might need a little tweaking. It takes time to change the paradigm he says, but in the end taking steps to appeal to this group can foster greater competition between companies as well as innovation.


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