The Value of Explaining “Why” to Gen Y.

Trying to figure out how to motivate and encourage members of Generation Y in business? Try explaining why, to Gen Y.

Generation Y is defined as those born after 1980. They are characterized as a group in desperate need of a sense of belonging—and participating in the process of decision-making. They are looking to contribute, and to be a valuable member of the team in a highly communal way.

In other words, the past generation’s “command and control” business motivators simply do not work with Gen Y. The phrase “because I said so” does not exist in the current lexicon. Managers who try to force employees to think or act in a certain way based on hierarchy and respect for position and experience are rebuffed in their efforts at every turn.

Business leaders need to find new and different ways to harness the enthusiasm, creativity, and innovative thinking of Generation Y

Carrots and Sticks simply do not work with this generation.

You see, Generation Y was raised primarily by late-generation Baby Boomer and Generation X parents who encouraged their children to have opinions on virtually everything. Parents encouraged this generation to share their opinions and have their voices to be heard, their opinions to matter and their suggestions to count. They were encouraging independent, critical thinking—and changing a generation in the process.

We now have a large and growing workforce of members of Generation Y who expect to be engaged in all decisions. Managers often view this type of behavior as disrespectful and a threat to the manager’s authority. Understanding that the behavior is not meant to be harmful. In fact the intent of the inquisitive, engaged  Gen Y is a helpful one.

So, the best way to motivate and encourage Generation Y employees, is to encourage their participation in the planning and thinking process. Here are four steps to a happy Gen Y business experience.

  • Solicit their opinions early and often. They may come up with some amazingly great ideas.
  • Listen to what they have to say, and incorporate every good idea you hear.
  • Explain why other’s opinions are valuable. This gives meaning to the actions you are encouraging them to take.

Let me give you an example. I was recently at event where a friend of mine Skyler (aged 25 and right at the middle of the Y Generation) was asked to stand in one place, and great guests as they entered the meeting room. He was given no other instructions. Unsurprisingly, he got angry at his manager, and did a poor job at greeting guests. I approached him, and asked him why he was pouting. He told me he did not understand why he was standing there, and why his boss was ordering to act in this fashion. I explained him the value in having a representative of his company act as an ambassador—a host, to the event. I told him the boss knew he’d be a great representative of the company, and would know how to best interact with the guests. He was in fact, honoring him by asking him to do this very important job.

I solicited his opinion on the matter, listened to his thoughts and complaints, and explained why he was valuable to the team. If his boss had done this from the start, he would have seen immediate results, and a happier employee made in the process.

You see, the positive aspect of this Gen Y-way of working is that employees are looking to contribute, and to be a valuable member of the team.

The trick to unlocking this behavior is explaining “why” to Generation Y is invaluable.

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