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Lesley Kaye Muses on Motivating and Retaining Generation Y

This is the first in a short series of ad hoc musings on managing Gen Y (typically the generation born in the 1980s and 1990s).

At this time of year when a large number of Gen Y new graduates are entering the workplace (around 230,000 in the UK each year), let’s hope that their employers have sought to gain an understanding of their motivation and ambitions in order to optimise retention and performance.

Gen Y are idealistic, digitally-enabled, social and ambitious. Research* tells us they are likely to have a distinct set of characteristics and expectations from their managers.  The implications of this are that the management styles that may have worked for the Baby Boomers or Gen X may not have the same motivation factor for them.

So how do you keep Gen Y interested, engaged and avoid demotivation or early departure?  Here are a few pointers:

1. Start with the right candidate for the job

This may sound obvious but Gen Y do not see themselves as applicants and are just as likely to be interviewing you.  Provide a clear picture of the work offered, future advancement opportunities, training and earnings potential.  Honesty is the best policy or you are simply wasting time in recruiting.

2. Gaining a Better Understanding

Regular, open conversations about alignment of expectations and ambitions to the role and organisation are key to ensure managers and graduates have a better understanding of each other.   Gen Y do not have the same expectation of job security as previous generations and indeed, they expect and even look forward to a number of careers.  The challenge therefore is harnessing their capabilities for as long as possible.

3. Coach vs Manage

Gen Y have grown up in an era where they can find as much information as they want, on almost any topic.  They value the experience and expertise of those managers who through coaching are able to engage and empower them to deliver without constraining their independence and entrepreneurial spirit.

4. Provide Feedback

An annual or bi-annual performance review is not sufficient for Gen Y as they prefer  and thrive on real-time feedback from their ‘coaching’ manager.

* Ashridge Business School and the ILM


Secrets of Successful HR Leaders - by Lesley Kaye

City Hall, located on the bank of the river Thames in London, proved an apt location for the CIPD London Centenary Dinner and Conference, and, as one of the guest speakers mentioned, would provide excellent views should anyone get bored during the Conference!

Fortunately, there wasn’t too much to bore us. Peter Cheese, CEO of the CIPD, discussed the new challenges and opportunities for our next 100 years. Peter’s Keynote presentation focused, in detail on a number of topics, including: The volatility of the economy; a VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, Ambiguous) world and a crisis of trust in the workplace with a shift of trust from the CEO to well-known personalities. Peter also touched upon the fact that 70-80% of the value of enterprises are intangible, with less than 10% of the UK workforce now working in manufacturing.

So what does this mean for the future of HR? We must understand the context of what happens in the workplace. We need to understand what is most important in HR – the person; how we operate, are motivated, think and perform. We must have better business knowledge; both commercial and analytical.

After these insights, we listened to a group panel session from three HR professionals who shared their leadership secrets. Discussions included: HR should be at the heart of the organisation & should be the organisational glue, make the FD and Communications Director your best friends, have the courage of your convictions, continually review the performance of your team, and ensure every employee understands their contribution. Leadership is a team game – you should always be willing to learn from your team.

The Centenary Keynote was delivered by Stephen Lehane, Group HRD of Alliance Boots. Alliance Boots are one of the companies that attended the inaugural Welfare Workers Association meeting back in June 1913 and are still operating today. This was an entertaining and engaging session in which Stephen noted that as HR professionals, we need to work with both rational and irrational responses. Stephen noted the following 6 key leadership points:

  • Identify what makes the difference
  • Leadership alignment and engagement
  • Embedding the brand value
  • Performance leadership
  • Colleague engagement
  • Celebrate success

The day concluded with a panel of three HR practitioners from three different generations giving their perspectives from different stages of an HR career.