How to Keep Your Gen Y and Gen X Employees Happy

Question: As a Gen Y founder, how do you keep Gen Y (and X) talent happy? How do you incentivize intrapreneurship over, well, leaving?!

Flex Time, All the Time

"As we've grown, I've realized that our employees all have different work rhythms. Forcing them into a 9-to-5 schedule would be detrimental to their morale and quality of work. We've instituted a flexible schedule policy that essentially allows employees to work when they'll be most productive, as long as they meet deadlines. This approach has improved productivity and company culture."

- Bhavin Parikh | CEO and Co-founder , Magoosh Inc
Culture of Sidepreneurship

"It's inevitable that Gen Y won't be happy doing the same job over and over again. Instead of making them leave to do it, build a culture of sidepreneurship in your company. Many Millennials in today’s companies have ventures that they run on the side. Managers who accept this new trend as long as their business work gets done will keep the best Gen Y talent."

Emphasize the Company Resources

"Be supportive of employees' desire to innovate within the company, and give them the time, tools, and resources to do so. Communication is a critical part of successful intrapreneurship. Employees need to know that a large organization can provide much more support than a startup with no budget. Besides, intrapreneurship allows creativity with a stable paycheck and little risk."

- Alexandra Levit | President and Founder, Inspiration at Work
Give Them Some Ownership

"Let them be their own bosses to extent by leading projects. They're super talented, so let them run with projects and you'll be pleasantly surprised at what they can do. Keep tabs on progress, but know that they want to do well and they thrive on being leaders."

Let Them Speak Publicly

"One of the most exciting facets of entrepreneurship for Gen Y's and Gen X's is the opportunity to present their ideas and convert audience members into champions and customers. Encourage emerging leaders to share their intrapreneurial projects at company meetings and industry conferences. It will give them the their desired sense of achievement and further your brand and culture."

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Try to Trust Them More

"If you're hiring the best to build the best, then the only way to succeed is trusting everyone is on the same page. People are driven in different ways and work for different reasons, but hiring the right team members is about finding people that get it. As the old phrase from High School Musical goes: "We're all in this together!""

- Derek Flanzraich | CEO and Founder, Greatist
Provide Some Structure

"We're unique here in that we not only have a team of Gen Y's, but our whole business requires a deep understand and constant contact with Gen Y. Keeping Gen Y happy doesn't have to mean ice cream in the office or regular half-days. For us, it means having structure, and being given work that you can be proud of -- we have a weekly bragging session where we share our highlights!"

- Lauren Friese | Founder, TalentEgg
Have a Horizontal Management Structure

"Have a horizontal management structure. I act as a direct support to my employees, rather than always acting like the boss. I want them to feel like they are “the entrepreneurs” in their positions; they need to have the freedom to make decisions they feel will benefit the company."

Plan for Them to Leave

"I only hire employees who I expect to be ambitious enough to want to quit in a couple of years and start their own company. It's the best way to get team members with ambition and drive. I encourage that next step, preferably in ways that are helpful to me — I'm happy to pay an employee or a company to do certain projects, whichever the person prefers."

- Thursday Bram | Content Consultant, Hyper Modern Consulting

Start to Think Holistically

"I've found that keeping the line of communication open about how they're doing both personally and professionally is critical. I want to make the partnership work long-term, so I'm comfortable with expanding or contracting their hours to make everything fit."

- Elizabeth Saunders | Founder & CEO, Real Life E®

Let Them Choose Their Path

"The best way to keep Gen Y happy is to keep them motivated for future opportunities. In a startup, there are so many options for growth. At PerBlue we are focused on letting everyone create their dream job. There is always room for an employee to advance and become really good at something new, or something they are are passionate about."

Don't Take All the Credit

"As a leader, I would never dream of taking credit for the successes that our Gen Y talent has. Give them the credit and encouragement to thrive at their job. Our team approach to each business challenge also supports this effort, and we keep teams small and agile to stay succesful."

- Robby Hill | Founder & CEO, HillSouth
Recognize Generational Traits

"Two researchers, William Strauss and Neil Howe, have published fascinating research around four repeating generational archetypes over the past 500 years, which may uncover some clues around how to manage across age groups. Gen Y is identified by confidence (sometimes viewed as entitlement), optimism and a team-playing attitude, while Gen X is identified by a lack of attachment and pragmatism."

- Allie Siarto | Co-Founder, Fare Oak
Allow Them to Self-Schedule

"We have employees ages 19-65. Our youngest stylists are in charge of their own schedules. They have the liberty to request for unlimited days off, change their schedules, and leave early, as long as all of our clients are served and satisfied. They have to understand our business and clientele well enough to create their work schedules. Satisfaction is high within our Sweet T Team."

- Nancy T. Nguyen | President & CEO, YMH, Inc.

The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world's most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, the YEC recently launched #StartupLab, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses via live video chats, an expert content library and email lessons. 

About YEC

The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world's most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched StartupCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.

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