How Gen Y can thrive in today's workplace

From small start-ups to companies with hundreds of thousands of employees across the globe, the same thing defines every company culture: the people. Notice I said people, not person. It takes every employee to define the culture – from the intern starting his first day, all the way up to the executive leadership.

genyBecause of this, when companies ask us how to create a culture where talented Gen Y employees can thrive, our message to companies is two-fold: executives need to let go, and Gen Y employees need to step up.

We’ll address each piece separately, because each required a different audience to take action and adjust their perspective, but both are equally important, and must happen concurrently.

Executives: Let Go

The strict hierarchical organization structure, which Baby Boomers and Gen X have come to expect, doesn’t work with Gen Y expectations and mindset. After being pushed for their entire education to share ideas and ask questions, the idea that some people or questions might be off-limits is mind boggling to Gen Y.

Navigating a strict hierarchy in order to complete their work seems like red tape to them, and they will have little patience for it. As a result, they are less likely to engage. Ask yourself a question: when considering an employee who contributes ideas on a regular basis against one who is content to follow direction without taking initiative, who do you want on your team?

Create an open dialogue, and really evaluate your policies. If working from home is feasible some of the time, enable your employees to do so. Ask for ideas from everyone in the company, and be transparent with results and impacts.

Gen Y: Step Up

As your executive leaders and managers let go, it’s time for you to step up. By letting go and putting their trust in you, your leadership is taking a risk. Take the opportunity to prove to them why it was a good risk, and that there is a lot of reward.

Contribute ideas and be respectful in how you present them. You may see a whole new way of doing something, but keep in mind, your leaders have already been doing the same thing successfully for many years. While they are open to your ideas, they don’t want to be told that their ideas are “old-fashioned” (or anything else that implies they are out of touch).

Be responsible with your newfound flexibility and use your time and resources wisely, especially when working from home. Continue to present in the workplace – and really think about what being “present” means for your role and company.

While an overall change in a company’s culture won’t happen overnight, these are the first steps in creating a new culture where Gen Y, and talented employees of all generations, will thrive and bring greater success to your business.

Above all, keep the conversation between executives and Gen Y open and flowing.

Laura VanHolstyn is the Communication Director at Brill Street + Company. Brill Street is a talent recruitment and advisory firm in Chicago, helping Gen Y professionals find meaningful work in their chosen career path. Brill Street provides clients with advisory services, sourcing resources and contingent labor options, all with the Gen Y perspective in mind. Each year, they rank the Top 50 Employers for Gen Y Emerging Talent in Chicago, recognizing employers for creating excellent Gen Y cultures.



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