Managing Gen Y in an Economic Downturn

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Every organization is trying to do more with less. I constantly hear about managers cutting staff, not hiring needed staff, expecting more out of employees and trying to meet the budget in a tightened economy. Many Baby Boomers, and some Gen X, have seen this before and are used to tightening their belts. However, this is a new phenomenon for Gen Y, so how does a leader effectively manage Gen Y in an economic downturn?

It makes sense that in today’s economy, a Boomer or Gen X manager would expect a new employee to be grateful for a job, and even be loyal to the company because of the job.

Yet, according to Nic Paton’s article, Gen Y Gets a Recession Reality Check, “a survey by the UK Association of Graduate Recruiters has found that half of young professionals now feel they lack good work-life balance and, despite the toughening jobs market, would consider leaving their jobs as a result.”

Trust and loyalty actually drop in today’s climate, as employees are looking for the best way to pay bills and guarantee job safety. So forcing employees to work extra hours, in an uncertain time, may work well in the short-term, but not in the long term. In fact, as soon as things improve slightly, that employee will leave for greener pastures.

So what is a manager to do? Here are two ideas that cost nothing and will go a long way in motivating your Gen Y employee:

1. Stimulate Them
Gen Y is smart, savvy and opinionated. They want meaningful work that will make a big impact. So give it to them. Delegate a challenging and stimulating task that will take the company or department to a new level. Be sure to offer them extra responsibility when they prove themselves with this task.

In order to help them succeed, talk to them regularly (at least once/day) and help them “chunk down” the large project into smaller tasks. They will not only stay engaged in their current tasks, but excel with the new project because they are being developed in new ways, something that every Gen Y loves.

2. Be Flexible
Gen Y values work/life balance more than anything else, so try to be flexible with them when it comes to creating their own schedule, working from home or volunteering for their favorite cause. Gen Y tends to get more done in less time anyway, so if they can effectively get their work done, then be flexible with their work/life balance.

Managing a company in today’s economic climate is a challenge for any manager, but more so for the manager of a Gen Y employee. So be sure to be flexible with them and challenge them, to maintain their loyalty. They’ll thank you for it and stay with your team longer.

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