Gen Y – Success or Bust

August 11, 2008

What is happening to the workforce?  Where’s the work ethic?  Doesn’t any body want to work? If you are like most business leaders and owners I work with, you’ve no doubt noticed a trend in the way the “younger” employees have been behaving in recent years. Most likely, you consider it a negative trend; too much entitlement, not enough loyalty, no work ethic, only interested in them self, and not willing to make a sacrifice. 


Unless you live in total isolation, you have heard of and recognize this segment of the workforce is known as Generation Y.  Bottom line, this group has been in the workforce long enough to understand, and have key priorities identified.  Research by numerous groups and individuals has resulted in a consistent top three things this segment is looking for from an employer; a positive environment, interesting work, and probably the most important: the opportunity for continuous learning. 


Considering the cost of turnover — which is dependent on the source and position being filled, three months wages to 200% of an annual salary; ouch — there are retention strategies that make sense.  As a Human Resource Management and Organizational Behavior Consultant, I tell you, give them what they want! 


Before you shoot me or discredit my perspective, consider the options and return on investment. 


Positive Environment – How is this achieved?  Clearly defined duties, candid and timely feedback documented in a formal evaluation or appraisal process, recognition, and reward for their efforts.  The cost associated with these items is far less that three months wages. 


Interesting Work – This is perhaps the most difficult of the three considerations to address.  Making of widgets falls slightly short of rocket science or 3-D computer programming.  However, if the right person is selected using job fit job match and professionally developed hiring assessment, success is achievable.  Also, employee retention and productivity will be the result when the other considerations are achieved. 


Continuous Learning – Creating an opportunity for continuous learning through training and development programs has more potential today than at any time in the past.  Online training programs are affordable and offer quality content in a wide variety of topics.  Taking advantage of this type of resource is also an excellent risk mitigation strategy.  Due diligence and good faith efforts in such areas as harassment prevention and diversity carry validity or recognition by various government and state agencies. 


Reducing turnover by 20% or a couple employees per year, along with increased productivity from tenure and experience will add significantly to the company’s customer satisfaction, success, and profits.  Consider the adage; you have to spend money to make money.  Invest in your most valuable asset, your human capital, and watch the returns. 

Kevin Robinson is the President and Senior Consultant for People Wise, a Kansas City based Human Resource Management Consulting and Solutions Firm.  In addition, Kevin is an instructor of Graduate and Undergraduate courses in Human Resource Management,