Gen Y has made me a better manager and leader
- August 21, 2017
- Posted by: admin
- Category: Management and Leadership
By Mark Field
When us ‘Gen Xers’ think back on our own experiences as apprentices or trainees, we will have some good and bad workplace memories. The mix of the good and the bad was generally dependent on our employer and the culture that existed in the workplace. Times were very different back then, you were lucky to get an apprenticeship and when you did, you did everything you could to keep it. The standard HR strategy was ‘treat em mean and keep em keen’ which meant many of us that survived graduated from the ‘school of hard knocks’. Disturbingly, this would have been even worse for the Baby Boomers.
There was no pressure or need for employers to provide incentives or strategies to improve performance and/or employee retention rates. Fear was the primary motivator to ensure good performance. Put simply, if you didn’t perform or couldn’t ‘hack it’ you were out. In many cases the strategies employed were deliberately aimed at weeding out the weak or the employees that didn’t fit in. Bullying and harassment were common practice, but we put up with it, because we had no choice, our livelihoods were at stake and nor did we want to be labeled as being weak or soft. The workplace didn’t care if you walked out, because there was a line-up of people ready to take your place.
Fast-forward a generation and haven’t things changed….
If you were to put the average Gen Y into a workplace that a Baby Boomer or even Gen Xer experienced, they would be on their mobile phones ‘googling’ the nearest industrial relations lawyers before you can say Jack Robinson.
Yes, I could start remonstrating about the shortcomings or ‘high maintenance’ issues of Gen Y, but this would be the easy option and in my view a little naive. I prefer to look at Gen Y from the ‘glass is half full’ approach.
Employing Gen Y has made me a better manager, I should be thanking them, not complaining about them!
Let me explain. After being in hospitality ‘on the tools’ for about eight years, I realised if I was going to advance my career I had to get some qualifications. I enrolled into a business management degree and set about educating myself. I can recall my very first human resource subject. It was the first time I had heard about HR and to be honest, at the time, didn’t even understand the need for it. It opened my eyes to a whole new world. I learnt about strategies for improving employee retention and motivation, training and development, managing performance and recruitment and selection just to name a few areas. My first thought was, do organisations actually implement this stuff? Apparently some did, they were the smart ones, and they reaped the rewards. Many however, did not. Small businesses, which many in the culinary industry are, lacked the expertise and capacity to invest the time, effort and expense into HR management. Back then, this wasn’t so much of an issue, the labour market was a lot more forgiving.
What I have found to be most interesting is the strategies and techniques they now talk about to get the best out of Gen Y are the same strategies that have been around for decades. My HR textbook was published in the eighties and it covers everything the Gen Y experts now preach. Perhaps HR is a bit like marketing i.e there are no new ideas, just modernised or refreshed strategies and techniques that are as relevant and effective now as they were in the past.
So why has it taken so long for us to start applying these HR principles to the way we manage people?
The answer is simple – we now have to.
Gen Y has forced our hand. The pressure on employers and workplaces (regardless of size) to provide purposeful and meaningful employment opportunities is now greater than ever. This is even more heightened in industries that are experiencing chronic skill and labour shortages such as the culinary industry.
Gen Y is not the enemy, they are just a generation that demands employers do more to improve their employment offering. The good news is that employers don’t need to reinvent the wheel to find ways to keep Gen Y happy. The HR strategies and techniques already exist, we just need to make the HR or people management area of our businesses a greater priority and adapt these strategies to meet the specific needs of Gen Y. I’m afraid if businesses don’t, their staffing problems are just going to get worse.
I, like many employers, have found managing Gen Y to be extremely challenging, but I would not change a thing. Gen Y has forced me to improve my own people management and leadership skills and as a direct consequence improve the overall performance of my business.
Thanks to Gen Y, the ‘school of hard knocks’ has now closed for good.
Mark Field is the Managing Director of Access Recognised Training an Australian based Registered Training Organisation specialising in hospitality/culinary and business management qualifications.
accessrt.edu.au/mark-field/ | firstname.lastname@example.org