Bridging the Generational Divide
These employees desire a lot of feedback and flexibility in our hierarchical structures. Don't be surprised if you find them pitching a new idea to a customer, or a new way of doing something to other employees. Both Gen X and Gen Y employees have worked on teams since kindergarten, love a challenge and want to be taken seriously. Basically, they want to be heard. They also want the truth, so give it to them.
Changing How Boomers Think
I think the challenge for those of us in leadership positions is to help our Boomer employees understand that the work habits and mind-set of these new groups of employees are O.K. Some of our Boomer employees may think the younger workers are lazy because they are unwilling to work overtime. Or maybe they don't understand why someone would prefer to come in at 10:00 a.m. and work until 6:00 p.m. Or how someone can take a personal phone call or text message and continue working. To retain this new generation of workers, we must provide them with flexible schedules when possible, so they can achieve the work-life balance that is so important to them. The Boomer's live-to-work culture is no more; it's a work-to-live culture now.
Of course, as managers, we can't let production suffer, especially in these economic times. We need to create accountability structures to prevent misunderstandings and provide parameters within which to work, such as time lines, expense budgets, etc. Gen X employees need the flexibility to use the problem-solving abilities they learned when they were "home alone." Gen Y employees need space to try new things and new ways of doing things.
The way we train employees will need to change as well. These new generations of employees have been absorbing information and learning from multiple sources their entire lives. They are used to multi-tasking, and most do better with relevant, short sound bites. (Actually, I even do better with relevant, short sound bites, so we could take a lesson from them here.) Provide step-by-step instructions for complex tasks, or buy an inexpensive video camera and make a short training tape. You would be surprised at the number of YouTube videos already available from printers and printing vendors.