Watch out – the Gen Y’ers are coming!

Quite often, as I speak to self storage owners about hiring new staff, I will hear them complain that “we had a young guy/girl working here recently but they lasted about 5 minutes…” and it usually leads into some vitriolic diatribe about how the “kids these days don’t want to work” and “want everything for nothing” and show “no sense of loyalty”…

Although this is a pretty gross generalisation, it is not without some elements of truth. Millennial’s or Generation Y’ers, or pretty much everyone born between 1980-1995 are definitely presenting today’s employers (and recruitment people) with challenges. The good news is that if you want to hire from this large pool of workers there are a number of things you can do to make it work for you both. Times have changed from when you (the boss) were looking for a job and what today’s job seeker is looking for.

Gimme a future!
Gen Y’ers will not be happy doing the same job day after day, year after year. They have been schooled to look for the next step in eighteen months to two years lest they become stagnant. They scoff at their parent’s generation that spent 20 years at the one company, and today’s employer needs to recognise this.

Gimme responsibility!
Today’s employees need to feel that they are an integral part of the system, not just a cog but part of the engine. They need to feel their opinion is valued by management and that the work they do has a significant impact on the operations (which is pretty accurate because these guys are probably going to be working at the front-line of your business talking to your customers).

I wanna be proud of what I do!
Chances are that the Millennial’s working with you will be earning significantly less than their peer group in other industries. So they need to feel pride in what they do and where they work, and be able to tell their friends that they are important and influential at work. They want to be proud of the work that their employer does within the community and their society. It is not all about work to these individuals – they want to feel they are making an impact on the community as well. So what are you doing to make the changes that will appeal to those who genuinely care about the world around them? One well-known organisation we know gives four hours off each week to do community or volunteer work with full pay. These are the elements that help you to craft a better company and a stronger value propositions to prospective employees.

I wanna be involved!
They want (no…demand) to be involved in the decision-making. They want and need to be trusted. The relationships that they develop with your suppliers and clients are critical to their happiness (and therefore longevity). As they are generally ‘people people’ this is what keeps them getting up and coming in to work. The booking system, the paperwork, computers and security systems are merely the processes that link the personal relationships between the employee and your customers. The more we automate the process at our businesses – the more we remove the interaction between the customer and the employee – the less opportunity for employees to develop relationships with clients and suppliers, and the harder it will be to maintain their enthusiasm and motivation.

Generation Y, not unlike the generations before them, would rather talk to one client a thousand times, than a thousand clients – one time.

Gimme the tools to do my job!
One area of your business that needs to be in absolutely tip-top order to appeal to this generation is your operating systems. Having grown up with computers, they are exceptionally techno-savvy, and won’t easily tolerate slow or antiquated systems. The flip side of this is that they will quickly learn more about your systems than you do (because they are IT-fearless) and can add some real value to your business in this area (and save you brining in the computer techs).

Gimme recognition!
This is the generation that demands and has become accustomed to instant feedback and gratification. They had graduation ceremonies from primary and high school, and received participant badges in every race they cam last in at school sports day. They have had parents and teachers offering positive reinforcement so recognition is as important to them as breathing. The recognition can take many forms, from supervisor-to-direct report, peer-to-peer, team-based or organisation-wide. The more creative, the better the impact. Ultimately, it is this recognition that will provide the extrinsic factor that can sustain employee performance and motivation. It’s the key ingredient to Gen Y’s sense of self-fulfilment.

Gimme Feedback!
The once a year annual review doesn’t cut it any more for the Gen Y’er. This generation expects feedback and validation more often, both formal and informal. They won’t be waiting around for their performance review. Although a recognised virtue, patience is not perhaps this generation’s strong suit. Similarly, loyalty for them is very much a two-way street. If they do not perceive loyalty from their employer (or if they perceive they are being taken for granted) then don’t expect them to take a bullet for you or your business.

Gimme flexibility!

Recognise that I have a life…and working here isn’t it!

This generation is comfortable with being held accountable for their results and they bring some evolved thinking into the workplace with regard to when and how they go about doing their work. They live in a virtual world and respond well to the notion of autonomy around work schedules, telecommuting, home office arrangements, and understanding that they desire true balance in their lives.

So next time you are recruiting for your for your facility…don’t be turned off by the smooth talking, self-assured, tech-savvy, and idealistic Gen Y’s….embrace their enthusiasm and idealism. Remember that with the huge talent exodus departing the employment pool with baby boomers retiring…they may well be the future of your business.

Richard Kellaway
Richard is Managing Director of Caretakers Australia and specialises in providing permanent and temporary managers for the Self Storage Industry. He can be contacted on 1300 659 068 or

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s