Harness The Power Of Your Gen Y Therapists

by Pam Stellema

in Business Development, Staff Management

Have you got Gen Y people on your team?

Are you ever left shaking your head and wondering if you are ever going to learn how to handle them successfully?

Don’t worry…. you’re in good company.

Salon owners constantly tell me about the poor attitude of their youngest staff members.  They wonder how they are going to effectively integrate these new team members into their way of doing things. I often hear “why aren’t they prepared to knuckle down and just do things the way I did in the beginning?

Well, times have changed and if you want to be able to harness the power of your Gen Y therapists, you have to change as well.

Much has been said about Generation Y over the years.  They have been dubbed the “what’s in it for me generation” and “the generation that won’t grow up”.  They often have their employers literally pulling out their hair, wondering what it takes to manage this group of young, self-confident and “my way” individuals.

Who are your Gen Y’s?

These are your employees born between 1980-1994.

What makes them so different? 

At a minimum, they expect kindness and respect in the workplace. If they don’t receive it, they have no qualms about moving on to a potentially better job.

Gen Y’s have been brought up lavished with gifts, travel and clothes provided by work-obsessed parents who could afford to provide them with it all.

Gen Y was repeatedly told that they could become whatever they set their minds to.

They were included in all the decision-making processes of the family and so firmly believe that their opinion is just as valid as anyone else’s.  They have been praised and encouraged by their parents and teachers, and enjoy the highest levels of self-esteem.

So is it any wonder, that when they enter the workforce, they want to continue to receive the same treatment from their employers that they have received from all the people that they have been educated and moulded by whilst growing up?

What you need to do next.

Managing this new Y generation successfully means throwing out the old “do it my way or else’ rulebook and beginning to formulate some new rules based on their needs and not just yours.  It’s not war yet, but it well could be, if you aren’t prepared to change your old behaviours in the workplace.

While each Gen Y is an individual, they all share common experiences and influences that allow us to gain some insight into this unique group of people.

  • They want as much quality in their work life and careers as they want in their personal lives

They value a true balance between these two areas of their lives….. determined not to become a slave to work like their parents.  Don’t expect them to work at short notice or give up their day off to come to work.

  • They want what they want, when they want it…..usually right away!

They have never needed to wait for anything in their lives.  Think about mobile phones, text messaging, online chatting and even their hamburgers.  All providing instant gratification. If you say you are going to do something, don’t procrastinate.  Follow through and deliver on your promises without delay.

  • They will quietly work around authority instead of aggressively repelling it.

Quiet rebellion is their motto.  Don’t think that no feedback is good news!

  • Forget intimidation as they enjoy very high self-esteem.

Their parents and teachers were never advocates of corporal punishment. Forget the stick approach, it simply doesn’t work with this group.

  • They have been micro-managed and firmly guided throughout their lives. 

This included not only having someone to organise their personal activities for them but to drive them there and pick them up afterwards.  Make sure you always give clear and precise instructions and provide the training needed to do the job to your requirements.

  • They have been taught how to avoid the workplace pitfalls by their success oriented parents.

They don’t intend to be taken advantage of by their employers so don’t bother trying!

  • They aren’t afraid of new technology.

This is the generation that could program a VCR at the age of four! Give them the opportunity to learn new technology-based skills.

Starting to sound familiar?  Are there some similarities here with your Gen Y staff?  Well now that you have a better understanding of these Gen Y’s, what can you do to make it all come together in a positive way for all concerned?

Here are some suggestions to restore the workplace harmony.

Provide a stimulating and learning based work environment.  By doing this, you are enriching your Gen Y’s working lives.  They love professional development and the opportunity to learn new things.  They don’t want to be stuck doing the same things day in and day out……boredom will quickly rear its ugly head.  Make sure that quality on- going training is part of your team development program.

Give them heaps of great feedback.  Remember, they have been raised on a diet of positive feedback and praise since potty training so now is not the time to take it away from them.  Be honest and enthusiastic and avoid lacklustre words like “good” or “well done”. That just won’t cut it! These Gen Y’s use words like “awesome” and “amazing” and expect to hear them describe their accomplishments. Turn up your enthusiasm dial!

Provide a workplace that gives them work-life balance.  Generate a great team environment and encourage not only personal development but team development as well. Promote a caring and compassionate environment where team members are supportive and caring of each other rather than being quick to criticise.

They aren’t you, so don’t expect them to be.  Not only should you never use the phrase “when I was your age”, but you should remove it from your vocabulary entirely.  That’s a sure-fire way to get them offside.  After all, do you believe you should live your life by your mothers or grandmothers set of rules?  I doubt it.

Don’t confuse self-assurance with arrogance. Gen Y’s often appear poised and self-confident.  Sometimes this can be grating to owners and managers but don’t let it throw you.  They have never been made to feel like they are a failure by parents or teachers and they don’t intend to start now.

Don’t assume that they don’t respect you.  Most Gen Y’s are extremely comfortable in the company of adults and they fully expect to be treated as equals.  Gone are the days that the youngest most inexperienced staff members are always given the menial duties.

Be sensitive to their feelings.  After all, they have grown up believing that their feelings are important and that their boundaries should be respected.  They fully understand the balance of power when it comes to sourcing new talent and they will expect you to understand and respect their importance to your business success.

Don’t assume the authoritarian stance with them.  They like to work to their strengths and don’t appreciate being told what they can and can’t do.  Include them in your decision-making processes and ask them to set their own standards for success.  You may well be surprised how ownership of outcomes will generate higher than expected results.

Communicate effectively and regularly.  Let your Gen Y’s know what is going on and how they are going to be an integral part of your business success.  They will not respond to just coming into work, doing the basics and going home each day.  They want to feel respected, appreciated and part of a successful team.

Remember to always lead by example.  Too many times I see business owners expect their staff to obey company rules when they are the first to break them. If you want to create a close-knit and supportive team, the example must always come from the top – that’s you.  Don’t ever be tempted to talk badly about one team member to another no matter how bad a day you may have had.  If you want and expect your staff to support and mentor your youngest therapists, they have to see you doing it too.

By being aware of their differences, and more importantly learning how to recognise, appreciate and harness their strengths, you can create the performance that you desire.

And here’s the plus!  By treating all of your team members with kindness, consideration and respect, they are going to return those same things to you, no matter what generation they may belong to!

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Pam Stellema

Pam is an industry experienced coach, salon owner, speaker, author and copywriter.She works beside salon and spa owners to show them how to effectively grow their profits and remain in business for the long-term.
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