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  • Writer's pictureKathy Miles

Managing Gen Y and Z

Managing Gen Y and Z

There is a greater age diversity in the workplace now than ever seen before. Previously there has only ever been one or two different generations in the workforce at the same time, but since the early 1990’s, various social and economic factors have combined to create for the first time, a workplace where at least three, sometimes four generations are represented.

Due to numerous life defining events, world trends, environmental issues and things such as family upbringing, each generation has different characteristics or traits that are often found within people born in that generation. The generations are as follows:

  • Builders – Born between 1925 and 1945;

  • Baby Boomers – Born between 1946 – 1964;

  • Generation X – Born between 1965 – 1979;

  • Generation Y – Born between 1980 – 1994;

  • Generation Z – Born between 1995 and 2010; and

  • Generation Alpha – Born between 2011 and present.

According to Australia’s Population Map and Generational Profile by McCrindle Research, Generation Y (also known as Millennials) will make up 35 per cent of the workforce and Generation Z will make up 12 per cent by 2020.

In order to get the best from Generation Y and Z employees, you need to understand them; what drives them, what motivates them and how to work with them.

How do Gen Y and Z Differ from Previous Generations?

Generation Y and Z have been raised to feel like they are special and that they should follow their dreams. In the era that they are living in, almost anything is possible, so this makes them positive and optimistic people.

Having grown up in a socially-connected technology-filled world, they know what they want and how to get it, all with a click of the mouse. They make use of technology and social media to leverage their opportunities. Due to this, they have also been the recipients of the most marketing attention, especially via the social media platform.

Generation Z in particular, will be the most educated generation yet, with 1 in 2 people projected to be university educated.

They have different expectations and ideas on what “work” should involve. They work to live rather than live to work. Work is more than just a job, they want to believe in what they do and help change the world; they want to make a difference. If a job doesn’t match their beliefs or give them a sense of personal purpose and achievement, then they will leave and move onto the next job.

They want to see that a job has a clear career path, they want to know how and when they can be promoted, what learning opportunities they will have and where they will end up – this is before they even accept the job.

They create change around how work is completed and flexibility is key for keeping them happy. They are great team players and they are very tolerant to differences within teams. They will use technology as a job aid, making it easier for them to do what needs to be done from any location.

As a generation born in an era where everything is instant, they look forward to challenges where their creativity will be tested in order to come up with some great solutions. They want to be given difficult tasks that will test their capabilities and skills.

They require feedback on their work performance, and they want this in constantly and in real time. They need to feel like their effort is being acknowledged and appreciated and they want to know what they need to improve on.

Tips for Managing Gen Y and Z

These younger generations have a different approach and different expectations when it comes to their work, this means that managing them requires a different approach as well. To attract these employees, engage and retain them, we must meet their needs. Here are some tips for managing Generation Y and Z:

  • Promote Open Lines of Communication – They love to communicate, so promoting an environment that allows them to express their ideas and opinions is important. They want to be listened to and to feel like their thoughts are valued. Remember, they have a wealth of knowledge and ideas from education, social media and life in general. Listening to their ideas and letting them run with some of these might actually add a lot of value to the team and the business.

  • Provide Regular Feedback – Feedback should be supplied openly and frequently to these employees, in order to create opportunities for recognition and for learning and development.

  • Set Goals – Setting goals helps them to stay focused and provides something to work towards. Goals work in well with their desire to see a progression path in what they do.

  • Allow Flexibility – Coming from a highly technological time, the ability for employees to work from anywhere has increased dramatically. Allowing flexibility for employees to work from home, or work the hours that suit them (providing all hours are worked) can increase productivity and job satisfaction. It also assists in allowing them to feel like they have more work-life balance.

  • Adjust Your Management Style – It is important to adjust your management style for each person that you work with, but it is even more important when working with Generation Y or Z. An authoritarian approach will not work well with the carefree, passionate younger generations. A collaborative approach will enable better performance and more employee engagement.

  • Discover their Passions and Skills – As a manager you should determine what the passion and skills are of each employee and use these as a motivational tool. For example, you may have an employee who is passionate about creativity, so putting them in charge of a creative project might be a great reward for this person for a job well done.

  • Allow Risk Taking – These generations may come up with ideas that you never would have thought of yourself. Allowing them to pursue these ideas and try new things is an important engagement technique for these generations.

  • Provide Regular Training and Development Opportunities – Lifelong learning is important to these generations. Learning should be interactive, engaging and learner centric.

Managing Generation Y and Z is not hard, it is just a matter of taking the time to understand them and know what they want and need from a manager and a workplace. You need to be open to the fact that they are different, and as such they want to be treated as individuals. In order to manage them efficiently and harmoniously it is important to know what they are expecting from you. With a clearer idea of what they expect and what they need from you, you can begin adapting the way you manage them in order to get the best out of these employees.

Every generation has their strengths and it is how we put these to use that really counts. High performing teams leverage the differences in the team and draw on the strengths of their members to achieve a common goal.

About PDI Solutions

PDI Solutions can work with organisations to develop and deliver training solutions tailored to your particular organisation, including targeted team building sessions. Contact us today for a free consultation at or visit our website at

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