Archive for December, 2011

The Truth About Generation-Y

reportcard1At the New York Kids Club, almost all of my employees are young — proud, badge-wearing members of Generation Y.  Gen-Y is very unique, in that praise is something which is lavished upon their young, impressionable egos.  Praise is applied liberally and repeated as needed, all day, everyday.  Consequently, praise is something that young people have come to expect (and deserve, when they perform well!).

Without trying to carbon date myself here, my own Gen-X was much more reserved in terms of praise.  No news meant good news.  So I, like many other Gen-X employers, had to learn how to interact and inspire my young Gen. Y team members.  And expecting them to conform to my  own “generation standards” was, as I have found, counterproductive.  As I always say:  in business, you have to be the river, not the rock.  I realized very early on with the NY Kids Club that I needed to show the young people I work with that I can be savvy; I can be flexible enough to adapt to their needs.  Nothing makes a business happier than happy employees!

Some time ago, I noticed when working with Gen-Y specimens that if I mentioned the traditional term “annual-review,” almost all bright eyes would immediately glaze over, as if to say: “Seriously?  I only get a shot at a raise once a year?”  To Gen-Y, a year is like a decade, and the term “annual review” is completely antiquated.  And so that got me thinking…how could I do better for them?

Then, I realized:  These young people, many of whom have just graduated college or are currently pursuing graduate degrees, are used to receiving feedback on their performances on a regular basis.  That’s the structure they have been brought up with throughout their entire scholastic careers.  I had to find some way to keep up that continuity and comfort zone, while still treating new team members with the respect they deserve as young, responsible adults.

And so the solution to this predicament emerged quite organically in the form of Semester End Reports; a report card, New-York-Kids-Club style!  In this “report card,” we include marks for ten distinct categories which fall into three “grades”:  Below Expectations, Meets Expectations and Exceeds Expectations.

Any grade that falls into the category of “Meeting Expectations” is accompanied by a comment from the employee’s direct supervisor, and a plan of action on how s/he can expect to move into the Exceeds Expectations category.  Each “Meets Expectations” also has a dollar-amount raise attached to it, which really gets the fires going in young people — after all, dollar signs speak loud-and-clear to everyone!  An employee’s “grades” determine the percentage raise which they are entitled to.  So then the message on the airwaves becomes: Keep up your GPA and you will definitely get that scholarship.

With the program we have implemented, it becomes up to the individual to test their own drive and ambition.  We are happy to give our employees as many opportunities to score raises as possible.  That’s why we issue these Semester End Reports three times a year — Fall, Spring and Summer — consistent with the scholastic year.  We give our employees every chance to determine their own destinies at the company, and we also let them do the math as to how much more money they could potentially be earning!

If someone Exceeds Expectations in every single category, s/he is eligible for a promotion to a salaried managerial position, with paid vacation and all the other perks that come along with joining the management team.

Funnily enough, someone recently asked me: “Doesn’t it get expensive when you have all these great, young, energetic people seizing the opportunities you offer to keep making more and more money?”

In truth, in the age we live in–fast times, fast changes, fast lives–I am thrilled to see people at the Kids Club gain earning power and climb up the ranks, because it means they have been with us for a while.  Many people in their twenties change professions at the turn of a dime.  The age of slaving away for twenty years until you earn your gold watch is gone.  We want to give young people every chance for growth that we can.  Be good to us, and we’ll be good to you.   We can be “the river.”  Flow with us downstream, and we will take you to some amazing new places.

December 29, 2011 at 12:21 pm Leave a comment


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