Monday, January 14, 2008

A New Generation of Employees

There seem to be two separate opinions on young workers. One group sees Generation Y employees as a liability with their low work ethic and poor communication skills. The other group sees an infusion of new ideas and technology into their workplaces.

Regardless of how you feel about Generation Y and their work ethic, They are becoming the new workforce and at some point you'll need to worry about attracting and keeping these young employees.

Can you guess the first question we ask a friend who just got a new job? If you said "how much do you get paid?" you'd be wrong. Usually the question is "do you get insurance?" There are so many of my friends struggling because they can't afford to get sick. They make nearly as much as I do as a teller, but because they have no benefits they are constantly in fear of expensive medical problems. A good benefits package is as, or more, important than wages.

Generation Y is very aware of their ability to change things. We got tired of spending $20 for a CD, so we downloaded it online. We were tired of waiting for our favorite shows to come on, so we posted them on YouTube. Now major TV networks broadcast their shows in full over the Internet and iTunes lets you buy the one song you want off a cd for $1. We know that if we don't like the way something works we can usually find some way to do it better on our own. Its very important to create a working environment where that feeling of change is also present.

It is very uncomfortable to be locked in a hierarchy where the young, low-level employees are afraid to bring things to upper management. Create an environment where employees feel comfortable talking to management and they will give you a stream of new ideas. If we aren't able to affect change, we'll probably go someplace else where we can.

Here at MSCU we have a yearly meeting with the President and Vice president where they explain their plans for the year and give people the opportunity to directly ask them questions and suggest things. Its a start, but it Generation Y is looking for instant feedback and prompt action. Its what we've known all our lives.

As a Credit Union, we have a built in advantage to appealing to Generation Y workers. If you present your institution as part of a bigger movement (which it is) we will be more apt to work hard to be a part of it. Be altruistic, show that you aren't just another big corporation looking to make money off of the general public and do it early in an employees training.

One of the reasons I love doing this blog and working for Maine State CU is that I feel like I'm fighting the good fight. I'm a bit of a "soldier" in the fight against big business and money hungry banks. I love that and it appeals to a broad range of young people who are burnt out on marketing with tons of fine print and pitfalls. We don't like being used by big business to do their dirty work while still running the risk of being dropped in an instant because of a budget cut. Its much more attractive to be loyal to a cause than it is a corporation.

We like to feel "at home" in our workplaces. When I walk into our break room I often feel like I've stepped into a library. Lots of people reading and a few quiet comments here and there. Your break room might resemble ours; a few tables with plastic chairs, a coffee machine, and lots of newspapers. Sure its an alright place to rest your eyes after marathon monitor-watching sessions, but the problem with this sort of environment is that I still feel like I'm "at work". Something as simple as a ping pong table (thanks to Morriss Partee for the link) can create an atmosphere of fun, bonding, and relaxation.

Generation Y is constantly looking to expand their social circle and make friends. You can bet that if I don't have at least a semblance of a social circle at work, it isn't someplace I'll feel bad about leaving. Create a place where people can congregate, get to know each other, escape from stress, and have a little fun too.

Purchase a Wii. It isn't exactly a budget breaker at around 300 clams (if you can find one), but bowling a few frames with a couple friends in the break room can make the day so much better and connect employees in the way a lunch room just can't.

When they opened the new T-Mobile call center outside of Waterville, Maine people talked most about their break rooms. They include TVs, game systems, and pinball machines. Make your Credit Union a fun place to work and word will spread.

Being attractive to Generation Y requires some change, but if you can get them motivated and loyal to your credit union, you can bet they'll produce some great results.


Doug True said...

Here at FORUM and FORUM Solutions we are blessed with a fitness center, recreation room with foosball, billiards, air hockey, and home theater. In the FORUM Solutions meeting room we have a Wii on the overhead projection with Guitar Hero. Small stuff makes a difference. It is not just for the younger folks here - we have some mean Wii Sports and Guitar Hero fanatics of all ages.

Andy said...

Thats one of the things I love about the Wii. It can bring together employees of all ages and its a lot less expensive than any team-building program.

FORUM sounds like an awesome place to work.

Tony said...

I know that this was not what your post was about but a recreation room like this could even be used as part of an incentive program (this is how I would make the concept sweeter to a CEO)

Each goal is worth time and money (for those credit unions that offer cash incentives for single service conversions or new members or whatever)

Getting a new service attached to an account earns you 15 minutes to your break time. A new member sign-up buys you 30 minutes and so on.

I know it seems lame, but small incentives like this do help. We do sales goals at the agency where the top producer gets their commission doubled. We also offer extra days off and all kinds of non-monetary rewards.

People like to be acknowledged for their contributions - especially Gen-X and Gen-Y. Small things like this shows that extra work counts. It shows that your extra effort is appreciated and rewarded.

Just a thought :)

Andy said...

Tony, I love that idea. Yesterday at a Social Responsibility meeting we discussed another credit unions' approach to raffle ticket sales. Each ticket sold "bought" them 30 seconds of paid time off. One of the tellers ended up earning 3 days off and their raffle sales for ending hunger went through the roof.

Small incentives can certainly make a huge difference, especially to young people looking for any way to be appreciated and get a bit of leisure time.