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July 2009 Diversity and Inclusion Best Practice


Generation Y: motivating and retaining young talent


Generational behaviours and attitudes are often shaped by major cultural, economic or political shifts. For Generation Y, the generation born after 1977, a critical shift has been the move away from jobs for life and the deferred gratification that this encourages. New research1 by London Business School has described this generation as reflexive. This is because their research has found that this generation is constantly reflecting back on the relationship between self, work and life. The ending of jobs for life means that Generation Y individuals have to take charge of shaping their own careers and lives2. Kelan, et al, suggest that this means that they have to reinvent themselves continually during their lives.


The research found that this generation tends to: want to be self-managing in relation to their work; seek challenge in their careers; have an appetite for self-development; see diversity as the norm and nothing unusual.


These characteristics of Generation Y young professionals present some important management challenges. Informal coaching and mentoring by their managers becomes critical to enable each individual to build their intellectual, social and emotional human capital. To do this their managers need to pay attention to, and understand, the individuality, e.g. their talents and career preferences, of each Generation Y person in their teams. This was a finding from the research carried out by the writer as part of The FutureWork Institute, which he cofounded, partnering with Business in the Community in 20033. Their requirement to self manage their work resurrects the 1970s and 80s knowhow and methodology about work structuring and job design. A key element of this was how to structure work so that each person and team could plan, do and evaluate what they do. It is IDC’s view that HR Departments need to pay more attention and build capability in work structuring to motivate and retain Generation Y talent.


In essence, unlike many of its managers who lived to work, Generation Y young professionals live and work to learn. IDC through its in-depth knowhow in coaching, mentoring and work design can help organisations successfully motivate and retain precious Generation Y talent.


1  The Reflexive Generation: Young Professionals Perspectives on Work, Career and Gender, Kelan E., Gratton L., Mah A., Walker L., 2009, London Business school

2 The Brave New World of Work, Beck U., 2000, Cambridge

3   Responsibility: driving innovation, inspiring employees, FastForward Research, 2003, Business in the Community


Dr Ian Dodds,


26 June 09

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