We have a new member of the team – fresh out of university and hired to help us cover the more basic workload. But this graduate seems uninterested in doing what she was employed to do and instead keeps putting her hand forward for higher-profile projects above her skill set. How do I help her balance her enthusiasm and endless stream of ideas with the nitty gritty of getting her job done? IM, Dubai
Understanding how to motivate and engage Generation Y is one of the key workforce challenges of the past few years. Many of us find ourselves working with people fresh out of university hired to do particular tasks in specific roles who often have confidence in themselves to do bigger and better things and with an appetite for completing tasks as quickly as possible.
According to Ashridge, Generation Y, also referred to as millennials, is defined as a group of people aged 30 years and under. Others define Gen Y as those born after 1982 and some split early Gen Y (1982-91) from late Gen Y (1992-01).
This generation has been written about and researched for a number of years and there has been much publicity about how wildly different it is from those who have gone before. Much of the media coverage of Gen Y has focused on negative character traits such as their short attention spans, overconfidence or lack of loyalty to one organisation. However, through our research and more importantly being an early Generation Y myself (your team member would be called a late Gen Y), I see how the reality is far more complex.
This reality is also even more relevant in this region with a large young national population as well as a demographic of expats typically meeting the Gen Y criteria. The search for interesting and challenging work within my generation is a key driver and we can become bored easily. Therefore, getting the best out of Generation Y is a key management skill.
As her manager, balancing her duty to get the job done while maintaining her enthusiasm is potentially a tough juggling act. If done effectively, it can provide the business with a valuable fresh perspective.
It is important she focuses on covering the basic workload and delivering what she is expected to do, but before you challenge her on this it may be useful to understand more about the expectations of that generation as a whole.
Expectations of work typically differ among millennials than other generations. We are motivated by challenging and interesting work, seek variety and like to have a say. We are comfortable speaking our minds and sharing information and are constantly switched on, connected to information and each other. We now look to a new generation of leaders, such as Mark Zuckerberg in their early 30s, rather than the 50-plus leaders of the past.
From personal experience of joining my own organisation, while I knew I was required to deliver the tasks I was hired for, I also quickly sought out more opportunities and more interesting work that eventually led me to be sitting in Dubai writing this column.
However, through the support of good bosses, it was clear to me that delivering on the detail was just as important as having new ideas and taking on exciting projects. Fortunately for you, Gen Y thrive on feedback, especially if delivered with good intentions.
Helping your team member find the balance between her role and her ideas requires you to adopt a different style of leadership, as Gen Y don’t respond well to command and control. This can be delivered effectively through seeing yourself not only as a manager but as her coach providing her regular feedback, sharing your own experiences and also explaining the importance of delivering tangible results. With Gen Y communication is the key. Ask her opinion, yet paint a picture of why the organisation values results.
When managing Gen Y employees your approach must appeal to the needs and expectations of this generation. Don’t just burst their bubble of enthusiasm, channel it and help them understand when and how this energy should play out in your organisation. Coaching them early on should lay the groundwork for a well-balanced and important team member.
Alex Davda is a business psychologist and consultant at Ashridge Executive Education, Hult International Business School, and is based in the Middle East. Email him at email@example.com for advice on any work issues.
Follow The National's Business section on Twitter