I recall several years ago, in a previous position, sitting with a group of senior leaders discussing strategy on how to deal with expert data we received regarding “Gen Y” individuals. The purpose was to revise our LP program to take into consideration the newest generation of employees. Was it really best for us to change our program to accommodate a single generation? What got me thinking about this was some recent information I read regarding the learning process of this generation.
Thinking back to the initial information I received, the data was interesting and compelling, but something just didn’t feel right. I understood that every generation has certain characteristics that define them, but would Gen Y really significantly influence the casual factors of shrink? Regardless, I put my skepticism aside and we revamped our program to accommodate our Gen Y employee population.
Recently I discovered a news article titled, “Five Myths about Gen Y workers” and it looks like my initial skepticism was not unfounded. Based on research provided by the Center for Creative Leadership, it appears that Gen Y employees (a.k.a. millennials) are not that dissimilar to their predecessors (Boomers or Generation X). Here are some facts from the research that clarify some misconceptions of Gen Y.
Myth: Don’t want to be told what to do
Fact: Gen Y individuals have been taught from an early age that doing what an authority figure asks is more likely to lead to success. They will follow those who will make them more successful.
Myth: They lack organizational loyalty
Fact: It is not that they lack organizational loyalty, it is that, like others, they understand they must change jobs more frequently in order to succeed. It is a change in how we all work, not just this generation.
Myth: They aren’t interested in their work
Fact: Similar to Baby Boomers before them, Gen Y employees are not motivated by boring or mundane work. Eager to achieve, they seek new and exciting opportunities to keep them motivated.
Myth: They are motivated by high pay and “perks”
Fact: Jennifer Deal, the researcher conducting this study found no relationship between a person’s age group and whether or not they are motivated by higher pay and perks. (We can assume that today’s living costs can play a part in their desire for higher pay)
Myth: They want more work-life balance
Fact: Again, it is believed that changes in the world play into how younger employees are seen. According to this study, our life cycles have more to do with what is accepted in today’s workplace. Technology, ability to telecommute and other work changes allow for greater acceptance that life is more about work.
Looking back, our effort to change our LP program, although it now appears to have been attempted with bad information, was made in good faith. Our original intention was to ensure that as an LP department, we were connecting with the new generation of employees. We did see improvements in some areas, but now can understand why we missed with other areas of communication.
So how do we communicate our messaging across various generations of employees?
Depending on your business, you could have upwards of four (4) generations of employees (Boomers, Generation “X”, Gen Y, “Cyber”). How do you communicate your loss prevention program to multiple generations? Consider the following to “generation proof” your messaging.
Ask employees of each generation how they best learn and understand. Although it may be learned that each generation still has common core beliefs, there are significant differences.
Identify what those differences are and how they play into your communication program. Most likely, these changes will be on how they communicate and learn (which is exactly what you are trying to accomplish). What do you need to understand to make your program “span generations?”
“Cutting edge” does not always work. Social media, social networking and online training are excellent tools. However, what if your employee base is a mixture of several different generations? Sometimes multiple platforms may be necessary as not all generations seek information via technological platforms.
The bottom line is that to understand how to communicate your loss prevention program with your employees, you must know your employees. This includes making them part of program development, understanding the variations between employee generations and adjusting your program accordingly. To be “relevant” to your employees, you must ensure you are communicating the program and goals in a way that each individual understands.
Written by Michael Hofstetter, CFI
National Client Services Manager