Can Young Professionals Be Committed?
While most organizations have experienced the reality that many young professionals from Generation-Y (aka millennials) aren’t truly committed to the company, most don’t stop to think about the Gen-Y perspective and why commitment (in either direction) isn’t deemed high on the priority list for job seeking.
What role models of commitment and corporate loyalty do Gen-Y workers have to look up to? Mom losing her job with no warning? Dad’s leap from company to company for higher pay? Think about it. The 20-somethings today are the first generation whose parents didn’t stay at companies for 20+ years.
I’m 31 (oldest Gen-Y) and my mother and sister have both lost their jobs three times! I know you’re assuming with that track record they probably deserved it and the companies probably wanted to fire them, but did it more tactfully with a “we’re eliminating your position” approach, but I promise you that’s not the case. In fact, after my sister’s entire department was eliminated a few years back, she was contacted a year later by the same company to not only come back to her old position, but they doubled the size of her team and increased the pay and bonus potential for everyone in the department. You think they would have hired her back if she wasn’t any good at her job? No, the corporate group who didn’t even know my sister made a strategic mistake. They eliminated a department in another city that they felt wasn’t necessary to the success of their business and after nearly 10 years of my sister’s efforts in that department, she was let go with no warning. (And remember, this was the third time she’d been through this.) My mom’s an accountant whose job has been outsourced to external organizations and/or foreign companies on multiple occasions. Why should either of them have loyalty to any company?
These are my role models of talented, hard working women who’ve been let go again and again. Why should I trust ANY employer to take care of me through tough times or not outsource my job when it makes financial sense to remain competitive in a global market? And for the record, that strategy is one I support when appropriate.
In general, Gen-Y employees know your organization is not committed to their long-term career development and they are probably not committed to your organization on a long-term basis. When the road gets tough for the business and there’s rumor of downsizing, you’d better believe they’ll jump ship. And if a shinier paycheck is flaunted in front of them, chances are they’ll take the money and run. Job security isn’t on their job-seeking radar screen.
So, here’s my tip for those hiring and attempting to maintain the loyalty and commitment from talented Gen-Y employees: communicate, listen and utilize. Gen-Y employees want to be in the know, they want to be heard and they want to matter!
1) Communicate with your organization’s young professionals to let them know what’s going on in other departments and even in strategic executive meetings. They’re used to Facebook where they know way more about all their friends and acquaintances than any generation before them, so they expect to know what’s going on around the company and not be the last one to find out big or small news.
2) While many people would lump listening into the communication bucket, I’m separating it out for a very specific reason. If the communication only goes one way, you’re done. This generation has an opinion and they want it to be heard. They did not grow up with dads coming home from work after a hard day at the factory expecting quiet at the dinner table as our parents had when they were children. Gen-Y employees have great ideas and want to help solve problems. Spend a few minutes soliciting and taking in their feedback about how the organization could be better run or how social media could enhance marketing efforts and you’ll be shocked at what you may learn. Of course, not all of it will be meaningful, but they appreciate someone listening at the very least.
3) Yes, everyone has to pay their dues, but don’t believe for a minute that just because someone is in their 20’s that they should have to spend five years answering phones or making copies before they can contribute. If you do, you’ll lose them (particularly the A-players)! Find appropriate projects in which to engage them. Give them the option of tackling a difficult challenge or brainstorming something new and who knows, their fresh ideas may be just what the doctor ordered.
My first full-time job was at a small association where I began as the Communications Manager writing and designing content for the website, newsletters and print pieces. After two years of providing suggestions when other departments were struggling, I was told (not asked) that I was taking over the Education department. My boss had communicated with me about the departmental challenges through staff meetings and one-on-one discussions, listened to my suggestions, and put me in a spot for maximum utilization to solve the problems. I was only 24 when I was put in charge of the half-million dollar budget and I finished my first year in that role 60% above budgeted net income.
I realize this example is not going to happen in most organizations, but it’s proof that the engagement process can work. And even if it’s not to the scale mentioned above, increasing your efforts to communicate, listen to, and utilize your young professionals will undoubtedly heed positive results for your department and organization.