Young 'uns: They need different strokes"


I realized that managing Genertion Y requires a huge shift in thinking when I was giving career advice to my 23-year-old brother. He's a top recruit at a top investment-banking firm, and he just got a promotion ahead of everyone else in his year.

And he's looking for a job. He fought hard to get that promotion. I told him I thought he owed it to the guy who promoted him to stay awhile. Here's the email response I got:

"I don't feel loyalty to the senior people here. I don't think they're treating me well. I asked the head of my group if I could change groups to get more experience in what I'm interested in, and he said no. I've just been put on a six-month-long project where I won't learn anything. I told the head of my group I thought it was a bad project for my development, and his response was that he's the one who controls if I get promoted, and he wants me to do it. I also was put on this project in lieu of doing something I've never done before, which would be very good for my development."

At first I was shocked to read the email. I've been grateful for every promotion I've ever received. But you know what? My brother's right. He doesn't owe the guy anything for giving him a promotion because my brother isn't getting interesting work right now.

My brother is not unique to his generation. He's the norm, especially for high performers. Here's a list of ways to effectively manage young twentysomethings so they will do good work for you.

As you read this, instead of thinking critically of the new generation, think about yourself. I've found that as I challenge my own assumptions with my brother's way of thinking, I see more possibilities for myself.

1. When you're interviewing young people, don't ask them why they left their last job. Or their last three jobs in three years. Who cares? Instead ask about their commitment to doing good work for you right now. Don't bother thinking you're hiring someone to stay at your company longer than you can keep the learning curve steep.

2. Manage a young worker every single day. Think of yourself as a coach. Check in. Help prioritize, teach tricks, steer their path. Independence is definitely not what young people are all about. They want mentoring, teamwork, and responsibility. Just be sure to give them work that's challenging enough to warrant daily input from a coach.

3. Make the work meaningful. They want to know how their work fits into the big picture. How does it help the company? How does it help the team? And don't even think of delegating those projects that involve five hours pushing papers through a copy machine: Outsource to Kinkos.

4. Forget about nine to five. No one needs it. Figure out the hours you need to be able to definitely see this person's face. The rest of the hours are up to her. If you tell her you need to see her face nine to five, you better be sitting next to her the whole day, saying things that could never be emailed.

5. Learn to use IM. When a whole generation is addicted to it, you can't ignore it. Baby boomer lifestyle is not going to dominate the office forever. Make the switch now before you are too slow to keep up with the conversation.

6. Don't ask young people to be patient. Why should they be patient? Who does that serve? As long as they deliver something to you every day and are not rude, leave them alone. Let them dream that they can achieve in one year what took you 10. Maybe they can. Don't take it personally.