Small Business

Give Gen Y a chance

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It’s important that staff, especially Gen Y staff, have a great leader to look up to. Motivation and inspiration is key.

One of the greatest challenges for business owners in the modern era is Gen Y staff. Right? Wrong. The greatest problem for business owners bellyaching about the under-30 worker is their own leadership.

Sure the tech-savvy, multi-tasking, would-be CEO aspirant ‘typical’ Gen Y staffer is different and is responsible for many proprietors and managers pulling their hair out, but younger generations have always been a challenge.

After all, in the 50s there was a song entitled “What’s the matter with kids today?” And then Bob Dylan’s 60s generation, the baby boomers, told parents: “Get out of the new one if you can’t lend a hand, for the times they are a’ changing.”

Generations will always see the world differently because their mental inputs, which create the eyes that help their interpretation of ‘reality’, have been time-determined. One thing that doesn’t change is for leaders to step up to the plate and lead.

I addressed a conference of business owners where the challenge was Gen Y employees in the workplace. It was a workshop and so I divided it into two parts.

In the first session, we agreed on the characteristics of Gen Y. The likes of author Avril Henry has studied the generation and summed them up in the following way:

  • They are self-confident and self-aware.
  • They are stimuli junkies, educated, fast learners and technology savvy.
  • They are informal, independent and focused on ‘having a life’.
  • Importantly, they are motivated and inspired by good managers and leaders.

And this is the ‘in’ for business owners, who are keen to get the best out of their challenging workforce. However, it requires for the business leader to be exactly that – a leader.

Of course, those leading Gen Y in particular ask why do they have to change? Sure, it would be ideal if their young staff members came to work and shocked their bosses by saying: “I’ve thought about it and I realise I have been a thorn in your side and I promise to be the team player you have been dreaming of.”

As the guy from the movie The Castle might say: “Tell ‘em they’re dreaming.”

So given the above is not likely to happen, I asked my seminar group, what’s the only way change in the workplace will happen?

It’s obvious: the leader has to change. As the old saying goes – if nothing changes, nothing changes.

In Michael Gerber’s book THE E-MYTH Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What to do about it, he posed the key question: Do you have a people strategy? Is it written down? If you answered no to both questions, then why not?

Most bosses have a universal complaint: “Why can’t I get my employees to do what I want?”

Gerber believes it’s nearly impossible to make anyone do anything. I would add – at least for a long time.

His advice is to create an environment in which your team wants to do it. It becomes what they want to do, not just for you but for themselves.

I’m on a unity ticket with Ken Blanchard who wrote The One Minute Manager. This is what he suggests you tell your workers: “You don’t work for me – you work for you in my business.”

The irony is that small business owners might be able to get the best out of their employees by changing their mindset from being dependent employees to becoming independent employees in the ‘business’ of building their personal brands.

If you want your employees to be high achievers, tell them to go after their PBs.


  • Be a great leader for your staff. They will work harder if they see a motivated boss.
  • Empower your staff to not only work for your business, but also in developing themselves.
  • If you can’t understand Gen Y, it might be time to change your attitude towards them. Try it and you might be surprised.

Published on: Friday, July 22, 2011

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