Children of Gen Y revolution
Project manager Kevin Wong belongs to the younger generation of managerial staff at Kowloon Watch Company. “Advancement isn’t just about obtaining a nice title. It’s about gaining the company’s trust and recognition,” says Wong. “I’ve been given many opportunities. While they can be challenging, they also keep me motivated.”
Managing director Wong Kam-shing is keen to recruit Gen Ys – those born in the 1980s -– to cater to the needs of younger customers. He also hopes to tap into their creativity, which he believes is a key driver for company growth.
To help young employees develop their career, the company offers on-the-job training and welcomes staff initiating business ideas. Experienced staff are also encouraged to mentor newcomers.
“We’ve noticed sparks of creativity when different generations work together. Mentorship provides a resource for Gen Ys as well as a practical form of team building,” says Wong.
Many Hong Kong companies have been looking for ways to retain young people, who are typically highly engaged for a significantly shorter period of time than their older counterparts.
According to Mercer’s new What’s Working survey, part of a global report, 46 per cent of Hong Kong employees aged 25 to 34 are seriously considering quitting their job, along with 41 per cent of those aged 24 and younger. Overall, 39 per cent of staff are seriously thinking of leaving.
The survey, part of a global report, canvassed the views of more than 1,000 Hong Kong employees on attitudes towards work and their employers.
Kate Bravery, Mercer Hong Kong’s human capital business leader, says globally young people aren’t as loyal as their predecessors, and in Asia Pacific, they have high expectations of the kind of “experiences” they want.
The Mercer survey shows that base pay ranks as the most important element of the value proposition for Hong Kong workers. But is pay alone an effective motivator for Gen Ys? “Regardless of generation, all employees require trust and empowerment. What that means for different generations varies,” says Bravery.
For Gen Ys wishing to blend work with outside activities, trust and empowerment can mean access to social networking sites and file-sharing technology, or interfacing with internal networking tools such as Instant Messaging or blogs.
“By allowing staff to network at work time, management demonstrates trust that they can manage their time and not abuse the privilege,” says Bravery.
Young staff are motivated by chances to learn, she adds. Gen Ys crave coaching, feedback, challenging tasks, and wide-ranging experiences.
Structured on-the-job learning, with regular touch-points with supervisors, is a welcome way to learn.
The new, vibrant generation entering the workforce today is forecast to be the most productive in history given their familiarity with technology, their ability to multitask, and their optimistic outlook. They have the highest satisfaction levels but also report the greatest propensity to leave.
To engage them, says Bravery, two things must change: managers’ mindset, and policies to manage this new generation. Today’s managers – late Baby Boomers and Gen Xers – are likely to have achieved success by proving themselves on multiple projects and waiting for their opportunity to shine.
Managing the next generation under the prevailing set of rules just won’t work, Bravery adds.
“A Gen X hiring manager sees a résumé with three companies in six years will think: ‘This person has had too many jobs in the last six years – unstable.’ When the next-generation employee sees a résumé with only one employer in the past six years, they think: ‘This person must be unemployable,’ ” Bravery says.
Managers will need to think about what stability means and how to get the most out of the next generation when they are engaged. To maximise the relationship, companies need to put in place the right infrastructure, such as faster on-boarding methods to ensure productivity levels are hit sooner, frequent performance feedback to reduce derailments and increase motivation, formalised job rotation programmes allowing exposure to more experiences, and faster progression opportunities to appeal to the pace of advancement that Gen Ys desire.