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Turn Gen Y’s ‘unreasonable’ requests into a negotiating tool

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in Hiring,Human Resources,Leaders & Managers,Management Training

by Bruce Tulgan

The two biggest comp and benefits myths about Generation Y employees—your youngest workers—are that they don’t care about money … and that they care only about money.

In fact, these young employees are savvy about the going rate for entry-level people with their skills. So there’s a good chance that the ones you are interviewing know what their bottom line is for basic pay and benefits.

They want more than that. In fact, they want way more.

Here’s where you start nodding your head because you’ve dealt with barely-out-of-college employees who have made what seemed like unreasonable demands for last-minute flexibility, extra time off and their choice of projects and teammates.

My advice: Quit laughing.

Use those demands as a negotiating tool, and watch the productivity of these young, tech-savvy go-getters soar in response.

Some choice words

Gen Y has been brought up with choices. Their parents didn’t dictate to them; instead, they presented them with either/or scenarios for everything from what’s for dinner to where to go on vacation. They’re looking for the same from their employers: Do they want to work in the office or from home today? Do they want Saturdays or Thursdays off? Are they more comfortable working with Ben or Heather?

Tap into that trade-off mentality by dangling those “unreasonable” demands as a reward in exchange for stellar work. If you want Thursday off, here’s what you have to do by close of business on Wednesday. If you want to work at home tomorrow, here’s what you have to accomplish today.

It’s much easier to deal with unreasonable demands if you think of them as very short-term quid pro quos. Position them as short-term, special deals in exchange for bursts of performance.

Timely, customized rewards

Here are three tips for making the most of your young workforce’s expectations:

1. When Gen Y’ers ask for a special benefit, use it as an opportunity to offer it as a reward for a measurable extra effort on their part.

2. Make good on the reward as soon as possible after the employee has demonstrated the behavior you wanted. Immediate rewards have the greatest impact.

3. Customize benefits and rewards for each person. One employee might value a telework day once a week, while someone else would be grateful to start the workday an hour or two later than usual.

A mistake to avoid:
Ignoring a Gen Y’er’s contention that he or she is special. Gen Y walks around with a sign on their foreheads: “I’m a special case.” They’re able to customize everything else in their lives; they want that at work, too.

A choice of choices

If you want to prompt your youngest workers to work hard and earn their pay, offer them these benefits in exchange for specific high performance:

1. Control over their schedules.

2. Control over their relationships at work.

3. Their choice of tasks. They’re willing to do grunt work if it will earn them more interesting assignments.

4. Training. They want to learn marketable skills. And they need to learn basic self-management skills, including how to adhere to a schedule, take notes, use etiquette and provide good customer service.

5. Choice of location. This goes beyond occasional telework. They want to be able to travel and work from anywhere. Some just want to work on the other side of the building or be allowed to fix up their cubicles the way they like.

These workers do ask for a lot, but they’ll do tons of valuable work very fast, very well, all day long if they know they’ll be rewarded with more than basic pay and benefits.


Author: Bruce Tulgan is the founder of consulting firm Rainmaker Thinking, which specializes in young talent. His latest book is Not Everyone Gets a Trophy: How to Manage Generation Y. Contact him at (203) 772-2002.

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