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How to Hire and Manage Gen X and Gen Y Employees

Welcome to the generation gap! Like it or not, four generations working together requires a plan for seizing the opportunities associated with a multigenerational workforce. Although Seniors, Boomers, Generation X and Generation Y have certain characteristics in common, their differences present the challenges starting with screening, interviewing and hiring only the best of the best. This article is about how to hire and manage Gen X and Gen Y employees. Let’s begin with interviewing.


The task of interviewing is the same whether you are talking to a Senior, Boomer, Gen X or Gen Y candidate. You will ask questions to determine skills, experience, and compatibility with your organization and your team of employees. The key is in deciding who is your final choice. As you prepare to interview, keep in mind that the generations are more alike than they are different. People are people and certain “commonalties” are universal. We sometimes label or pigeon hole an individual from one group and assume that everyone in that group is alike which is never the case. For example, Gen X and Gen Y employees sometimes get a bad rap for their values, beliefs, priorities, behavior and work ethic. Just because some people in this group are difficult to work with, doesn’t mean everyone is. Your job as the interviewer is to evaluate each candidate against your specific job requirements and make a decision based upon what you learn. Keep an open mind as you meet with each candidate, as they will vary from person to person. There are exceptions to everything and those are the people you are trying to find and hire.

As you prepare to interview, focus on “who” each candidate is and what each has in common with the rest of your employees. This is the first step toward bridging the gap between generations. The second step lies in knowing what motivates each group and the third in how they are managed and how members of each group respond to that management. Bridging the gap begins with identifying what humans have in common. The four major areas are:

1. A need to be successful. There are very few people who intentionally set out on a path of self-destruction. Regardless of age, race or gender, people want and need success in order to live a self-filling life.

2. A need to be respected and appreciated for the contributions they make. This is a human need we all share. Keep this in mind as you interview and manage Gen X and Gen Y employees. If they are not people you think you can respect and appreciate, don’t hire them. It won’t take long for someone you don’t like to figure it out. And when they do they are gone!

3. A need to know what’s expected. The late Dr. Kurt Einstein, a behavioral psychologist, said: “To the degree that people know what is expected, to the same degree they can succeed.” There is no greater truth when it comes to leading people. In order to be successful in this area, discuss job expectations with final candidates and you can avoid problems after the new employee starts working for you. How? By not hiring anyone who is not able or is not mentally committed to meet your job expectations.

4. A need for communication. You need to hire candidates who have the ability to communicate verbally and in writing. Once hired, the manager needs to live up to his or her responsibilities in seeing to it that all channels of communication are working.

With the projected pending retirement of up to 40% of the present workforce within the next ten years, you have no choice but to adapt to the changing face of the workforce. Ready or not, your new team will soon be made up of Generation X and Y employees! After you have hired them, what do you do with them?

Understand what motivates Gen X and Gen Y employees

Although these two generations tend to be lumped together, they are actually different in a number of ways. Gen Xers were born between 1961 and 1980. One of their liabilities is that they are often brutally honest toward co-workers as well as their supervisors. This style tends to get them into trouble. With that said, let’s start with Generation X. They are generally motivated by:

Hiring Secrets The respect of their supervisors and co-workers.

Hiring Secrets Honest, timely feedback when they make a mistake.

Hiring Secrets Plenty of time to enjoy their life outside of work.

Hiring Secrets Authority to do their jobs without interference from their bosses.

Hiring Secrets People who see the “big picture” and are not simply focused on day-to-day goals.

Hiring Secrets Creativity. They are always interested in creative challenges in which they play a major role in achieving.

Understand what motivates Gen Y employees

Gen Y is the youngest group of the four. They were born after 1980. Today they are in their early to mid twenties and many of them are recent college graduates. This group is typically motivated by:

Hiring Secrets Technical assignments. They are technically savvy and nothing is more exciting to them than working with anything technical.

Hiring Secrets Innovation. The more innovative the work environment the better.

Hiring Secrets Collaboration and teambuilding activities. They are used to working in teams and having been doing so all of their lives. They are looking for more of the same.

Hiring Secrets Supervisors who listen and who are open to trying new things.

Hiring Secrets Additional responsibility as a reward for doing a good job.

Hiring Secrets Opportunities to work toward achieving specific team and individual goals.

As you complete your interviews, ask yourself if you are prepared to provide this kind of motivating environment for Gen X and Gen Y employees. If not, hiring people from these groups will inevitably lead to consistent turnover. Are you willing to go out of your way to accommodate? Should you have to? Only you know the answers to these questions.

Why Gen X and Gen Y leaves

A recent national survey found that one of the most common reasons Gen X and Gen Y employees leave is that they don’t feel appreciated. Do you give feedback to employees only when you are unhappy about something? If so, you won’t keep them on your payroll for long. You need to take time to notice and comment on their successful efforts. Those who receive recognition for what they did right can more readily accept and benefit from comments about areas that need improvement. Just because your employees are young doesn’t mean that they don’t want respect, courteous treatment, and positive feedback. For example, do you recognize employees’ birthdays in a special way? To do so makes them feel good because you have made the effort to remember them. A simple gesture goes a long way toward cementing relationships and keeping good people on your team. What specifically do you do to make your workplace fun? What do you do to reward your employees when they least expect it?

Some ideas for recognizing and rewarding Gen X and Gen Y employees include:

Hiring Secrets Giving away movie passes.

Hiring Secrets Treating your team to lunch outside of the office without you being present.

Hiring Secrets Recognizing accomplishments with a certificate for a free video rental.

Hiring Secrets Reserving a bowling alley for an evening and inviting employees to bowl, kareoke, or simply relax.

Hiring Secrets Holding a “crazy shoelace” day, funky hat, or ugly tie day.

Hiring Secrets Appealing to your employees’ idealism by sponsoring a group project to benefit others in the community.

These are just a handful of simple, low-cost ideas. To find out more about what your Gen X and Gen Y employees would like, ask them. Don’t assume as a “senior” or “boomer” manager that you know what turns-on the younger generation. Making decisions on how to recognize and reward them without asking them what they would like is a big mistake.

In conclusion, the secret is not so much in how to find good people, but how to keep them. People work for more than the money, especially the younger generation. Once you have hired them, it’s important to help employees enjoy their jobs. You can accomplish this by setting high standards and making sure everyone knows what you expect. Create a partnership with your team. Give them a chance to grow and learn new skills; reward their efforts, and celebrate their successes!

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