Four tips for managing Gen Y staff

Gen Y gets a bad rap among the older set who do the hiring and firing, but the fact is, one day they'll be running the show themselves. Rather than fighting this, take the opportunity to train and motivate younger workers with a view to the long term. Here are a few pointers for achieving that with minimal drama.

Throw them straight into the deep end

You might be reluctant to entrust your newest hires off the bat, but Gen Y staff are quick learners, tech-savvy and adaptable. As entrepreneur Jenene Crossan told us in this month's cover story, her experience with Gen Y workers is that they're great multi-taskers, good at picking up new things and sharing the knowledge with others, and well equipped to handle any curve balls thrown at them. It's the quickest way to see what someone's made of and assess whether they're up to the task.

If it doesn't work out, say so

In a Harvard Business Review piece, CEO Michael Fertik urges bosses not to hesitate to let poor performers go. Keeping toxic staff or slackers around will affect workplace culture and breed resentment. The last thing you want to do is set a bad precedent - you're essentially sending the message that the company will tolerate anything. Crossan says it pays to ensure mutual expectations are clearly set out and make use of the three-month trial period for new employees.

Make it personal

As Spark Hire CEO Josh Tolan recently wrote at Mashable, "young workers like to know they’re not just a cog in a machine, a nameless face in a crowd". The personal touch can go a long way. Make a note of, and acknowledge occasions such as birthdays – your staff are people first and foremost and they have lives of their own that extend far beyond work. This extends to the recruiting process, too – offer attractive benefits and talent will start to come to you. In the US, Niagara Falls is offering to pay off student loan debt for graduates who move to the area, with the end goal of breathing new life into the region.

Ask questions and encourage feedback

When was the last time you really listened to suggestions from your staff? Crossan says Gen Y tends to be incredibly optimistic, seeing opportunities rather than barriers. So next time you're walking around the office, stop for a chat and discuss the status of current projects, for example. You might find that a particular task turns out to be a waste of time and money, or you might be able to explain just why a particularly dull contribution is hugely valuable to the bigger picture.

Tolan advises employers to look to Gen Y candidates as "beta testers" for the company culture. "Discover what applicants find attractive about your company. Why are they applying, and why are they passionate about your organisation? Knowing why Millennial workers, and workers of all ages, want to work for your company will help you play up your best features to attract more candidates." Just remember: Fresh ideas deserve genuine consideration, not just lip service.

Here's a handy infographic outlining the hows and whys of managing Gen Y at the office...