Managing the modern employee pool is much different from what it was back in our parents and grandparent’s time. Gen Y (a.k.a., “Millenials” estimated 71,000,000 people) workers are now fully steeped in the work force, and Gen Z (a.k.a., “The New Breed” estimated 23,000,000 people and growing) workers are coming up through the ranks every day. This makes for a major changes in personalities and skills. And consequently, major changes in the way that an employer or manager has to deal with their employees in order to be successful.
Generation Y was a new breed when they entered the professional workforce in the late nineties and early two-thousands, with less tolerance for the traditionally aggressive, uncompromising “Devil may care” management style that most managers had utilized since the start of the Industrial revolution back in the nineteenth century. Gen Y decided that they didn’t simply exist to be a little worker bee who was paid to be bossed around and treated with distain.
Now with Generation X being fully influenced by the Millenials and the constant flow of information on the Internet, it’s becoming even more difficult to act like a “boss” without offending this fickle, yet intelligent brand of employee – who are in fact, the leaders of tomorrow.
With a mix of both these unique groups combined with traditional “respectful” baby-boomers that are nearing retirement, your job as an owner and/or manager has never been so difficult.
Let’s take a look at some tips you can utilize to keep everyone happy while not compromising your company’s bottom line.
1. Be flexible…
Rigid management practices don’t empower employees to be at their most productive. Establish strong rules about your company’s image and how your employees conduct themselves with customers, leads, vendors, etc. However, don’t be strict when it comes to things like the order in which they complete tasks, when they can and can’t take vacations or personal days, or telling them to take breaks or lunches at specific times every day (if this can be avoided) – etc.
Some rules need to be in place for customer service and to meet necessary deadlines, but you have to pick your battles and more importantly, not have a “just because” attitude where you act like a parental figure instructing a bunch of two year olds. Gen Y’s and Z’ers don’t like being motionless!
2. Don’t be a dinosaur…
New ideas, ways of doing things, and technological advancements can totally give you an advantage over your competition. Sticking to the old ways of doing things, just because they keep you in your comfort zone, or because of the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” mentality will just create complacency in your workplace. Worse, the new breed of employees you’re dealing with need to feel like they’re a part of things, or they’ll just go down the road and find another, more rewarding job.
Give constant feedback instead of traditional quarterly, or year-end reviews. The old way allows for complacency and the development of bad habits that if left unchecked, will be harder to break the more time goes on. Assess and give feedback once a week, or bi-weekly for maximum results.
3. Accept criticism…
In the days of old, employers gave constant criticism and accepted none. Heads rolled and strong-willed employees with great ideas were terminated. With Gen Y and Z, if you’re such an old dog, they’ll find a company with more of a contemporary approach. Nobody’s perfect and if you’re not willing to grow or adapt, you’re probably not worth a young person taking a career risk on, right?
Criticism helps everyone, especially if you’re running a business.
4. Be discriminating…
Worse than being an inflexible dinosaur that can’t accept criticism, is to be a complete pushover trying to please everyone. Not everyone deserves bonuses; not all long-term employees deserve seniority perks; and you can’t keep dead weight around just because they have an impressive MBA.
Management is about contradictions, and you have to know when to hold and when to fold.
Don’t reward employees that don’t add anything to the organization just because they’ve been with you for longer than everyone else. Empower yourself to cut the fat when necessary, give warnings when they’re warranted, and give compliments indiscriminantly when an employee deserves them – regardless if it’ll offend someone elses sensitivities.
5. Watch out for “One-Track-Mind Syndrome” (OTMS)…
This goes without saying, but it’s an easy trap to fall into. You want to be flexible and your employees need to follow suit. Change often leads your company in better, more profitable directions, and there will always be employees who fight every proposed modification with every fiber of their being.
Worse, they’ll pollute the minds of other employees with their attitude too. Always assess your employees for complacency and resistance to change, then keep on them to avoid OTMS.
6. Don’t overwork them…
Putting too much work on their plate leads to nothing getting done, or at least not done as effectively as they should be. If you need more employees, hire them, don’t overwork your existing employees so much that they burn out.
Burn out is hard to recover from and often times, it’s hard to know when the breaking point will come – once it does, it’s usually too late to recover from!
7. Never let em see you Sweat…
Being emotional is a good thing. It’s what makes us human and real. However, you need to be professional. Stand up for yourself without screaming or throwing a tantrum, don’t slam doors or throw equipment around, don’t talk badly about difficult employees behind their back. Keep it all professional, and usually even the most difficult members of your staff will too.
8. Give employees what they need to do a good job…
We all know that budgets can prevent this tip from becoming a reality. However, many employers let themselves think they know everything.
Your sales team doesn’t need the new Z10 – the old iPhone4’s work just fine, don’t they?
Not if you want to keep up with your customers and competition!
New equipment, software, training, additional employees, etc., all increase productivity. Often long-term savings are obscured by the initial cost of certain items – don’t be near sighted as your employees won’t respect you for making these kinds of opinionated, snap decisions.
One last thing that your employees need to do a good job is feedback, which has already been mentioned, but’s worth mentioning one last time!