Sunday, March 16, 2014

Unleashing the Creative Genius of Generation Y

One of the most difficult challenges for organisations is to motivate Gen Y resources who seemingly need constant engagement and new experiences to stay committed.

Gen X leaders and functional managers find it difficult to tap into what inspires Gen Ys as the conventional ladder of success either alienates or frustrates them. This is often misunderstand as arrogance or a push to fast track their careers.

In my experience the main frustration for Gen Ys is the need to express themselves and their creativity. Being viewed and treated as an individual who has ideas that may be 'outside of their current remit' is important. This is an unusual work situation for Gen Xs who have built and protected their professional areas of expertise.

While the seniority system was broken down and challenged by Gen Xs, it is Gen Ys who are embracing the concept that knowledge and talent can not be contained in the workplace. Add to this the emergence of self expression and opinion through social media and it is not a surprise that Gen Ys appear to be eager to express views whether they are invited too or not.

Gen Ys admire leaders who are not afraid to allow creative expression and idea generation because it makes them feel valued as individuals. Especially in teams where the essence of what is produced is based on imagination, artistry and originality.

The following management approach can be successful in unleashing the creative genius of Gen Y teams:

1) Do not own the process, be clear about owning the outcome: enable teams to input into the process  as Gen Ys have strong opinions, new ideas and approaches to express.

2) Be assessable and approachable to provide quick feedback:  avoid the frustration of teams not being able to move swiftly and losing momentum.

3) Create a spontaneously collaborative team environment: structured 'ideas sessions' can put individuals 'on the spot' or make them feel self conscious.  Encouraging open unstructured collaboration between team members enables quick fire trouble shooting, heightened urgency to contribute to solution finding and random inventiveness. Be prepared for noise, odd comments, laughter and some 'light bulb' moments.

4) Be cool, Stay calm:  creativity is a fun, spontaneous and slightly 'out of control' pursuit. This is in direct contrast to hierarchical reporting line structures where order and control rules interactions. 

Being cool and staying calm when there is no obvious answer or outcome to report is difficult when there is a need to demonstrate progress at regular intervals. A perception of lack of direction and/or progress can developing. Managing internal expectations around this is required.

Setting a challenge, embracing flexibility and conveying confidence in Gen Y teams ability to contribute solutions will create the energy and positivity required to produce great work. 

5) Provide clarity of decision making: ensure that teams have clarity on decision making and who the decision makers are. This ensures authority levels are respected, the approvals process is clear so time is not wasted, there is communication 'up' and guidance is provided. 

6) Reward contributors not just the project owners:  reinforce that individual expression is esteemed and valued.

What are your experiences in managing Generation Y resources.

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