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Managing high-performing but demanding Gen Y

Gen Y is increasingly becoming a bigger part of our workforce and dynamics have fundamentally changed, with a demand for faster, more innovative and flexible experience and service delivery mechanisms.

Fortune magazine deemed Generation Y as the most high-maintenance, yet potentially most high-performing generation in history because its members are entering the workplace with more information, greater technological skill and higher expectations of themselves and others.

With such a high potential and “differently oriented” workforce, it’s high time the art of management went through a fundamental overhaul to swap command-and-control methods with democracy and collaboration. The good news is that there are organisations rewriting the way we work together, encouraging leaders to demonstrate new management traits.

Here are some practices I think are worth investing in:

Get social

First things first, a manager needs to use the technology platforms Gen Y uses – from social networking forums to mobile apps and devices. Managers and organisations need to work out how to integrate these technologies in the workplace as Millennials prefer companies that embrace channels of communication they have grown up with and allow access to the technology they use in their personal lives.

Be collaborative

Unlike the Industrial Age where a manager assumed superiority through hierarchy, today they have to be just as accountable to the team as the team is to him or her. A team leader has to deliver value beyond just giving orders and doing performance appraisals.

Managers have to include employees in decision-making processes and enable them to increase the value zone between the company and its clients, creating a culture where empowerment and engagement drive performance and not reporting hierarchies.

Enhance your emotional quotient (EQ)

In the past, it was considered inappropriate to let emotions be seen in the workplace and we were all tutored to remain “strictly professional”.

Gen Y however is confident to get personal and carry their emotions and opinions about their work on their sleeves. As they are inspired by the deeper purpose and meaning in work than it just being a way to make a profit or earn money, they have a higher sense of ownership.

A manager is expected to know and be aware of people’s personal priorities as much as their professional talents. Social scientists like Daniel Goleman are going so far as to call our times the ‘emotional economy’.

Install big windows in your cubicle

The more its visible to people, the cleaner we’ll want to keep our house.

I believe it’s time managers installed these ‘big windows’ in our cubicles too. The Gen Y workforce, growing up in the age of the internet, is driving a wave of participative-culture change, where transparency is a top priority.

These young people put their entire life in the public domain - and they expect nothing less from their employers. Honesty, openness and consistent communication will be cornerstones of management going forward.

Get out of their way

Just let go. The more you try to micro-manage Gen Y the less you can harness their talent. Create processes and resources to enable them instead.

For example, rather than asking them why a certain task wasn’t done or when it will be done, ask them what you can do to help them meet their client’s commitments. Help them connect to the right subject matter experts, solve the bottlenecks in the system for them and share your knowledge.

Prithvi Shergill is chief HR officer at HCL Technologies