The Gen Y demographic is the largest single component of today’s workforce. By 2025, 75 percent of the workforce will be Gen Y. Many executive leaders from the Baby Boomer and Gen X generations are struggling with the challenges of understanding and managing Gen Y, and are asking how to better utilize their workforce.

Across companies of all sizes and industries, the question I am most often asked is “What should I do to improve my effectiveness with Gen Y employees?”

My answer: You need to let go.

A strict hierarchal organization structure, which we Baby Boomers and Gen X leaders have come to expect, is out of sync with the expectations and mindset of Gen Y.

Gen Y employees have been conditioned by their teachers, parents and mentors to share ideas and ask questions. They view navigating multiple layers of management as unnecessary “red tape.” Reinforcing these strict hierarchies will result in a loss of productivity and motivation. Your Gen Y employees will become less engaged, and eventually, will move on to opportunities where they feel they will have a larger impact.

The fact is, the more you rely on traditional organizational thinking, the more distance you put between yourself and Gen Y employees.

There are some controls you must put in place to be accountable to key stakeholders, and especially in large and growing organizations, some hierarchy is necessary. But how do you find the balance between good business and good culture?

Create a strong sense of community. Provide some social activities for employees during both on- and off-hours, and participate yourself as well.
Enable Gen Y employees to contribute from day one and on a higher level. Assign special projects and critical tasks enabling Gen Y employees to step in and step up.
Enable flexibility in work hours and setting.
Accept and value the ideas and initiatives brought to you by Gen Y employees. The single greatest way to encourage new ideas is to enable employees to successfully implement the ones they’ve brought to you.
Proactively engage with Gen Y employees on a regular basis: question, counsel, involve and value each employee.

As the Gen Y workforce marches toward 2025, we, as executives, need to let go of the idea that “how it’s always been” is the same as how it should be. We need to let go and adapt to a new perspective.

Interested in learning more? Share your comments, or email me.