Gen Y: Who are they and how do they want to learn?

Delegates heard Generation Y engagement advice at the CIPD’s insightful HRD conference last week.

It became clear that a somewhat distinct learning and development strategy is required for individuals born in the 1980s, which of course got us thinking about how our software can help.

Generation Y individuals have been described as ‘digital natives’ that have ‘grown up with change at the click of a mouse’ and are renowned as very different learners to Generation X workers and baby boomers.

It could be argued that, perhaps in a large part due to rising University tuition fees, Gen Y individuals are becoming more discerning about the companies they choose to work for. It has also been reported that Gen Y employees record the highest rate of staff turnover in the economy. Collectively this suggests great expectations amongst these young workers, as they strive to achieve a ‘return on investment’ from their degree.

Some employers may consider Gen Y employees slightly too ambitious or demanding – for example they look for constant feedback and commonly demand learning and development opportunities even if outside of working hours.

But equally these employees appreciate autonomy, have a great desire to connect and collaborate, and bring vital creativity to the workplace. So if organisations can provide an engaging and inspiring working environment within which they can realise their potential, the benefits are multi-faceted for all concerned. So what steps can you take to attract and retain Gen Y…?

Cascade’s HR software can assess individual employees’ skills and competencies, and thus their training requirements. Learning and development plans can then be formed to encourage staff to grow, and high-potential employees can be tracked, regardless of their generation.

The provision of on-the-job training, mentoring and external learning opportunities should help to keep Gen Y individuals engaged and motivated. Regular dialogue and structured appraisals additionally facilitate workplace communication, feedback and collaboration of ideas.

On a more holistic level, best-practice workflows within the software make day-to-day tasks quicker, more efficient and more effective. This should give line managers a more comprehensive grasp of their team’s performance and requirements, from which meaningful progression can be achieved.

Many organisations will query if they can afford financially to motivate and retain Gen Y employees. But the important thing to remember is that Gen Y individuals seek inspiration and receptivity, something that any employer can provide. Good communication and an understanding of employee needs does not need to cost the earth, perhaps all that is needed is a subtle shift in thinking to satisfy the digital natives.



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Cascade HR is a well-established, award-winning provider of fully-integrated HR and payroll software. The company is renowned as much for its quality of project management and ongoing customer service levels, as it is its dynamic technology. Over