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New generations call for new strategies

Published on Saturday, 19 Jul 2014
Virginia Choi
Francis Mok

Generations Y and Z may see themselves as creative, freedom-seeking, energetic and flexible, but to a number of Hong Kong employers they are also self-centred, according to a recent survey by Tamty McGill Consultants International on behalf of the Continuing Professional Development (CPD) Alliance.

“This is the first time we have seen employers use the term ‘self-centred’,” says Virginia Choi, chairwoman of the CPD Alliance. She believes the perception comes from a misalignment between how Gen Y (described as being born between 1980 and 1994) and Z (born in or after 1995) approach their careers and the attitudes of previous generations of baby boomers (1945-1964) and Gen X (1965-1979).

Choi says that having grown up with super-fast communications and a world of knowledge at their fingertips, Gen Y and Z look for a clear career path, want to be involved and need to feel challenged, while being given the right level of responsibility. “Gen Y and Z tend to have different lives, values and communication preferences, and they look to incorporate these into their working relationships,” Choi says.

Despite their positive and confident attitudes, many Gen Y and Z individuals have been pampered by parents and teachers and find the transition from university to the workplace challenging, she adds.

According to the survey – designed to help employers in different professions understand the characteristics and preferences of their multigenerational workforce – managing new generations of employees calls for fresh tactics. Choi says that as Hong Kong’s older employees make way for the younger generation, Gen Y and Z are the talent base for the future, so their needs cannot be ignored. “Employers need to look for ways they can develop appropriate strategies to work effectively with Gen Y and Z to exploit their talents for future business development and professional advancement.”

When it comes to looking for a job or staying with an employer, the survey found that Hong Kong Gen Y and Z prioritise monetary compensation and benefits, a clear and achievable career path, and professional advancement. Having a job that provides interest and fun was ranked fourth. On the mainland, Gen Y rated job interest and fun among the three most important factors when choosing or staying in a job.

Employers and working Gen Y from both Hong Kong and the mainland chose “money and title recognition” as the most effective workplace motivator. Meanwhile, non-working Gen Y (with degrees) from both Hong Kong and the mainland ranked satisfactory performance in their future jobs as a key motivator.

Mentoring was another area the survey looked at, with nearly 35 per cent of Hong Kong employers saying that Gen Y and Z prefer supportive mentoring, a style of mentoring that offers assistance when needed. Asked the same question, almost 44 per cent of mainland employers thought that they prefer collaborative mentorship, which offers wider access to a group of mentors. However, Gen Y and Z respondents from both Hong Kong and the mainland selected supportive mentoring as their preference.

Francis Mok, president of the Hong Kong Institute of Human Resource Management, (HKIHRM) says a number of traditional workplace rules, such as obedience, loyalty and promotion based on years of experience, are no longer suitable for creating work incentives for the younger generation. “These days, we understand how the younger generation puts a lot more focus on career development and work-life balance,” he says.

To meet the needs of young employees, he suggests employers offer arrangements such as flexible work hours. They also need to provide a clear career path backed by solid training and development opportunities. “Employers will benefit if they find ways to capitalise on the strengths and characteristics of Gen Y, such as being creative, entrepreneurial, goal-oriented, technology-savvy and eager to climb the career ladder,” Mok says 

He adds that employers can also provide career advancement motivation schemes by offering rewards such as full tuition reimbursement and better job titles. “The younger generation joining the workforce like immediate feedback and close coaching. It can also prove useful to give them opportunities to take responsibility for their own behaviour and spot their strengths and areas for growth.”

Coaching based on strengths instead of weaknesses, he says, is particularly effective as the new generation thrives on praise and positive reinforcement.

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