Twentysomethings Go to Work

Recently at the Employee Engagement Network, Bob Wiebe of Enliven Consulting asked this question:

"Young people are given bad press in some circles for not meeting employer needs. Perhaps you have encountered the young person who is rude or inattentive or sloppy, or who has what (used to be) called a poor "work ethic". How does one engage the young person (teen, early 20's) in their work?"

As the proud parent of two twenty-something sons, one who has graduated from college and entered the workforce, and one who is a senior in college, I jumped in and made the following contribution to the discussion.

What do twentysomethings want at work? My 23 year old stopped by this weekend, so I grabbed the opportunity to put the question to him. He said:

- I'll work hard for you (the employer), but this job is not my life. I've got dreams and I'm going somewhere.

- Let me use my creativity and bring my personality to the work. Don't treat me with a cookie cutter.

- Don't micro-manage me. Don't constrain me. For example, don't block my access to social networking. That's how I stay connected to my world.

- Treat me fairly and pay me fairly (and on time) for the work I do.

- Communicate one-on-one with me. Although we love our electronic tools, we can actually talk face to face. And we want that.

- Keep the job from turning into "work." There is a difference between a task and a mission.

- Be open to a different method. The "Old Guard" style of managing, that does not allow the us twentysomethings to figure things out for ourselves, is frustrating.

Hmmm. This list sounds very familiar. Aren't these things quite similar to what any worker would want?

So, if you are in HR or in management, and you've got twentysomethings entering your organization, heed the voice above, and practice these guidelines:

- Does the work fit the person? Is there something about the work, even just a small aspect of it, that appeals to the young person's interests? Is the work exciting at all to them?

- Does the young person see a clear WIIFM (What's In it for Me?) connected to the work? Are you engaging them with your brand?

- Does the work offer a career path that the young person can envision him or herself travelling on toward future opportunities?

They may be harder to manage than other waves that have gone to work, and they may leave you at the drop of a hat to pursue their dreams. But ask yourself the question that Bob Wiebe has built his consulting practice on:

~ Our mission is helping harness human capacity. Why shouldn’t organizations and individuals function with zip and crackle rather than foot dragging and boredom? Our vision for our clients is to experience more life-giving joy and fruitfulness in their work.

I like that a lot! How can you harness the zip and crackle of the new generation?

Posted by Terrence Seamon on November 8, 2010. For more ideas on motivating and engaging people of all generations at work, invite Terry to speak to your managers.


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