So, you have just hired a rockstar Gen Y for a new role. Holding on to this great catch will not be as easy as it was with previous generations. Currently, in the United States alone, there are approximately 40 million Gen Ys in the workforce, and by 2014 those numbers are expected to reach 58 million.[i] As with every generation entering the workforce, this generation brings a new series of ideas, preferences, opinions and perceptions that may differ from yours. But who are these Gen Ys anyways?

These are the kids that made you bring boxes of chocolate covered almonds to work to sell to your colleagues for their soccer fundraiser. This is the generation of babysitters who made you sign a contract with a clause stipulating a 15 per cent increase in payment for an ‘act of vomit’. But these are also the folks that may make or break your career.

If you don’t recognize and understand the difference between this generation and yours, you may be one of the many companies contributing to a loss of billions in Gen Y turnover. Think it can’t happen to you? Well, here is how to lose a Gen Y in ten days:

  1. Let good work go unrewarded: Gen Ys grew up in a world where everyone got a trophy just for showing up. You should know; your generation was handing them out! A simple thanks does wonders for motivation, and making recognition public is a plus.
  2. Only review their performance once a year: Gen Ys need feedback regularly. Boomers might believe that no news is good news, but millennials prefer frequent reviews to determine if their performance is up to (or exceeding) your expectations. Create a report card or set goals and check in to see if they’re being met.
  3. Think millennials have nothing to teach you: Gen Ys learned how to “surf the web” before they learned to write in cursive. If you have a problem, especially a technical one, there is a good chance the person in the cubicle outside your office would be more than happy to teach you.
  4. Think this job is their whole life: Gen Ys do not live to work, they work to live. Don’t mistake this for a lack of teamwork, passion or enthusiasm; just understand that life balance is something this generation is not willing to compromise. After seeing their parents miss recitals or championship games for deadlines, Gen Ys want their work and personal life to be in harmony. This also does not mean providing a junior level employee with five weeks of vacation and their own masseuse, but personal days and flexible hours go a long way.
  5. Block Growth: Many millennials consult their mentors on employment decisions, including what would be an acceptable salary, and where their career is heading. Gen Ys are educated and savvy, and they know whats out there. If you don’t review their salary yearly and they feel there are no growth opportunities at your organization, they will look for another company that meets their needs. Millennials are not known to ‘wait and see’.

Gen Ys are a generation filled with motivated entrepreneurs who create their own jobs and companies if they can’t find what they’re looking for. They are also the generation that produced the world’s youngest billionaire. While it’s true that millennials are shaking things up in the workforce these days, each generation has had to learn to work with the one that came before theirs – and the one that came after.  Remember, as Aldai Stevenson once observed, “that which seems the height of absurdity in one generation often becomes the height of wisdom in another.” And either way, millenials are here to stay.


[i] Sujansky, Joanne and Ferri-Reed, Jan. Keeping the Millennials. 2009.