Changing Landscape

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 18 March, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 18 March, 2009, 12:00am

How does the role of managing GenerationY employees differ from managing older generations?

It would be foolish to only look at what generation people fall into and make attributions. Great bosses make an honest effort to understand their people. The challenge is to leverage the unique characteristics, values and skills of people [independent of the category they belong to]. Gen-Y has a different mindset than Gen-X and the other generations. Each generation's attitudes and beliefs are shaped by cultural shifts, influential public personalities, politicians, world shaping events, technological advances and so on. These differences in mindset play out in the workplace and that sets up an interesting dynamic: several generations with different views, attitudes, loyalties and skills. Such differences include relationships with the organisation, relationships with colleagues, work approaches, orientation towards leadership and orientation towards career. A main driver from Gen-Y is to create a life and find work that has a meaning. Work-life balance is a key issue for Gen-Y. Time off the job is important even if it costs a promotion.

What are the main challenges that face today's managers when motivating and setting goals for Generation Y employees?

Employees of the different generations bring different values, attitudes towards work, work styles, job satisfaction criteria, learning styles and levels of commitment to the workplace. The role of the leader is to flex him or herself and find ways to motivate these individuals, understanding that what might work for a Gen-X does not work for Gen-Y. But even two Gen-Yers can be different, so the leader must understand the psyche of the employee and see what truly motivates the employee. Motivational tools, rewards, recognition and retention tools will look different for each employee. A key question is how flexible is the organisation in its policies and practices to adjust to people from the different generations, and to cater to their needs and motivations? Or is a change required for us to become more flexible? This is a key question that organisations need to ask themselves, as success depends on the ability to recruit, retain, engage, manage and develop people.

What effect will the recession have on how GenerationY employees view the workplace/job market?

The recession is going to hit Gen-Y hard. Their sense of loyalty to the organisation will decrease; it was not high to begin with. Remember this is the job-hopping generation. They'll now have to compete with highly experienced people for limited positions. These younger people had high expectations in terms of salary, promotability, significance of projects and perks. All of them [and us] need to adjust our expectations. The criticism that has been levelled against Gen-Y is that they have been brought up as 'being special' and that they are all 'winners'. That mindset might hurt them in the new environment. How well prepared are they in terms of experience and job search skills? The recession is a huge wake-up call for Gen-Y.

How can taking an MBA directly improve the leadership and management skills of today's managers when dealing with the next generation of business executives?

Students need judgment - making sound decisions and thinking about how to implement the lessons. Ivey's motto is think, act and lead. The case-based method allows us to spend significant time on the act and lead aspect. Teaching people skills in the functional areas is relatively straightforward. How to implement decisions is far more difficult, yet decision making and action is the essence of leadership.

Is it worthwhile for graduates who are having a tough time finding a job to embark on an MBA course without several years of management experience behind them?

You will get the most out of an MBA programme if you have several years of experience, two to five years. (EMBA programmes look at candidates with more than 10 years of experience.) Doing the programme is a significant commitment in time and money. Think about how to get the most out of it.