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Less-Is-More Blog by Pierre Khawand

3 steps to help bridge the gap between generations in the workplace, by Jenny Blake

Posted by Pierre Khawand on Sat, Oct 23, 2010 @ 05:09 PM

Gen Y in the workplaceIf you have been part of our community and participated in our lunch and learn webinars, you probably heard some of Jenny’s exceptional presentations on a variety of workplace issues. If you are new to our community or unexpectedly stumbled on this article, check out the recordings of Jenny’s presentations at the "Accomplishing more with less" group on Facebook:

You probably guessed it by now; Jenny is Gen Y! And no surprise that the above is only one facet of what Jenny does. She is also the author of the upcoming book, Life After College: The Complete Guide to Getting What You Want (Running Press, 2011) and she blogs at LifeAfterCollege.org, where she provides simple, practical tips about life, work, money, happiness and personal growth. Her goal is to help people focus on the BIG picture of their lives, not just the details. And by the way, I don’t think I mentioned that she also works at Google, and has been there for almost five years, currently as a Career Development Program Manager and internal coach. And there is more, but we will leave it for future articles!

One of the questions that came up in the Generations in the Workplace Panel Discussion, in which Jenny represented Gen Y, was about bridging the gap between generations and what can generations learn about each other and from each other. As a follow-up to that discussion, and continuing the effort of bridging the gap between generations, Jenny volunteered some additional insights about how best to manage Gen Y in the workplace. 

Tips for Managing Gen Y by Jenny Blake

1. Deliver feedback consistently. Generation Y thrives on feedback. Many of us grew up playing sports, and we are used to getting regular, specific tips about how to improve. Many members of our generation genuinely want to perform at our best and meet (if not far exceed) managers' expectations. Help us contribute as much as we can to the organization by giving us regular, timely feedback. One suggestion for doing this is to put "feedback" as a standing agenda item for your 1:1 meetings so that it becomes a regular, natural part of the communication cycle between managers and employees. Feedback can go in both directions (feedback for the manager should be part of the process) and should include both positive and constructive items as they come up -- no need to force either one. 

2. Set clear expectations. Generation Y grew up completely engaged with (if not often distracted by) technology. It is true that we are constantly being pulled in a number of directions - text messaging, emails, IMs, Twitter, Facebook, the list goes on. Instead of focusing on how we spend (or split) our attention, focus on setting clear performance expectations, then let us get there in a way that makes sense for each individual. Set aggressive deadlines and be specific about the deliverables -- if we meet them, hopefully it will matter less if we are tweeting or texting during the day, as long as we are also getting our work done in an exceptional manner.

3. Set us up to work collaboratively. Generation Y is a social generation who grew up highly involved in after-school sports, clubs and activities. Most of us love to work as a team -- we have better ideas, we hold each other accountable, and we thrive on the idea of learning with others. I, for one, far prefer working with a team (or even directly with my manager) on projects rather than working alone feeling like I am in a vaccum. Set Millennials up for success by giving them projects that encourage collaboration and team work. Although having more people involved sometimes slows things down, it can just as easily work to speed things up and improve the end product.

Visit LifeAfterCollege.org for more tips from Jenny and follow her on Twitter @jenny_blake

Topics: generations in the workplace