The How, Where and Why of Managing Gen Y

With their laid back attitude and multitasking approach, the tech-savvy Gen Y might be the hardest generation yet to manage in a corporate environment. Organizational psychologist Kathy Turner offers insight on how to optimize the performance of your Gen Y workers.

Stop us if you've heard -- or said -- this one before. But "back in our day, you had to walk half a mile to school come rain, hail or shine; you spoke only when spoken to, and you couldn't leave the table until you'd eaten all your vegetables." Laugh if you must, but the hardships served up to generations before 'Y' are thought to have forged admirable qualities in people. A life of ease seems to have had the opposite effect.

With no precise dates on when Generation Y began, the general consensus is its members were born sometime between the 80s and early 2000s. What's certain is that it's a generation where everything has come easily. Raised in decades of almost unbroken prosperity, you would be forgiven for thinking that Gen Y didn't know the value of a dollar.

Employed as an organisational psychologist by the department of human services where she has conducted workshops on the generational divide, baby boomer Kathy Turner is sympathetic. "Generation Y are confident, well-educated, self-sufficient, socially and politically aware." But they can be "unrealistic in their desire to make a difference and climb the corporate ladder."

Gen Y also has a different way of working, which is more about innovation and less concerned with the rigidity of corporate structures. Turner's advice? Be results-focused. "Some older workers need to focus on their output rather than time on Facebook, for example," Turner says. "But when it comes to Gen Y, you can find that they're getting the job done at the same time. If so, leave them be. If not, it's time to tighten the screws."

Before jumping to any conclusions, Gen Y's unconventional approach to prioritizing doesn't equate with laziness. "They work best when choosing their own schedules," Turner says. "Tell them what you want and let them get on with it. They will work weekends if they think it's worth it.

This mode of adapting to Gen Y strengths has led to companies like Best Buy in the United States launching a "Results-Only Work Environment" in 2005. Employees were allowed to work virtually and choose their own hours, as long as the work was done. The results? Productivity rose by 41 percent, and decreased staff turnover by 90 percent.

"At the end of the day, the best workplaces for Gen Y will be those that encourage and reward effort," Turner says. Gen Y will put in, but may use different a methods of achieving results.

Turner warns that there is a risk in getting too caught up on the idea of the Gen Y stereotype. Instead, she reminds us that ultimately Gen Y employees "fall into the same personality types as everyone else."

How To Get The Most Out Of Gen Y: 6 Things Your Business Can Do Today

Are you inspiring and engaging your Gen Y employees? Ensure that managers are getting the best from them by doing the following:

1. Nudge them away from their comfort zones. Explain what needs to be done and entrust them with the responsibility to do it.
2. Assist them with social cues. Guide them in etiquette and protocol, especially when engaging older generations.
3. Avoid using blanket stereotypes. While understanding that every generation has idiosyncrasies unique to them, try to focus on the individual and not the generation en masse.
4. Welcome them into the team. Gen Y identifies strongly with their teams. Enhance social cohesion and orientate young staff into the workplace thoroughly.
5. Provide incentives to keep them. Gen Y'ers love mobility, and they will always be on the lookout for promotional and learning opportunities.
6. Develop and mentor them. Give them access to ongoing development, coaching and feedback, as they are likely to see work through the lens of their ongoing education.