Career Advice HR Focus

Gen Y therapy

As general manager of recruitment for Hong Kong at Links, I make sure my staff are offered the right opportunities when they’re ready to take a step up.

Links is not just a recruitment agency – we’re more of a business consultancy with recruitment as part of our core business. We offer permanent as well as temporary and contract recruitment.

We also have a business-services arm that offers our clients everything from payroll, outsourcing, visa-processing, bookkeeping and HR advisory services. We service a wide range of different clients across a broad range of industries, including banking and financial services, consumer, professional services, technology – you name it.

The majority of our staff are Gen Ys. On the pro side, they’re very tech-savvy. They’re very smart. They can multi-task. They’re open-minded, collaborative and always willing to help. They don’t simply rely on traditional methods of communication like e-mails or the telephone. In recruitment, for example, they are using social media and other online forums that were never used in the past.

On the flip side, they are sometimes perceived as being a bit disloyal, but I think that’s a big misconception – in large part, I think they are just misunderstood. They may come across as demanding, impatient and disloyal, but if you put them in a role where they can exercise their strengths – such as their tech savviness – you can get a lot out of them. It depends on how you motivate them.

Gen Y employees want to make a difference. They want to make an immediate impact on their employers and they aren’t afraid to take the lead. This is a generation that’s very opinionated, but they’re also willing to contribute – they want to do more, I find, compared with previous generations.

In many ways, Gen Ys make better managers, especially of other Gen Ys and Gen Zs. They speak the same language, they are more pro-collaboration, they like the teamwork aspect and I think they know how to get more out of the team, especially compared to the more traditional local Hong Kong management style, which is less collaborative and prefers giving direction.

Successfully managing this generation requires the right employee engagement strategies. Generally speaking, Gen Ys need more variety in their roles and a clear roadmap where they can see the next step if they work hard. Managers also need to get them involved as much as they can in decision-making. This is not a generation that is happy to sit and be told what to do – they like to be engaged.

The more engagement you create in a role for a Gen Y, the more you will benefit from their creativity and hard work. I really do believe if Gen Ys are given more authority in the workplace, many employers would quickly see the benefits.

Gen Ys are fountains of knowledge and they know how to best deal with others of the same generation. If your business predominately targets Gen Ys, then get their opinions on how to communicate effectively with them. “Use them or lose them” is my motto.

How we engage our Gen Ys is to give them an opportunity to take the lead sometimes. A lot of our meetings internally are very collaborative. We want to hear their opinions, strategies and ideas on how to deal with situations, so we do a lot of teambuilding and have a lot of team meetings where everyone has a chance to voice their opinion, and I think it really helps us to retain staff.

Many of our teambuilding exercises mix senior management with all other levels and each member is given the chance to play the decision-maker and contribute to the team. For example, we wanted to establish what our core company values were and the best way to do that was to ask our own employees what they thought. This activity allowed all our voices to be heard.

For Gen Ys, our colleagues are also our friends and vice-versa, so team-building is a great way for them to strengthen those work relationships and promote further employee engagement. Giving them a sense of play at work and making friends further strengthens or establishes a sense of culture, which is so important to have in any company.

At Links, we really do believe in organic growth. We believe in bringing people in when they’re young and fresh, with a lot of potential, giving them the right training programmes and nurturing them.

As told to Liana Cafolla