How to keep your Gen Y PR talent

Creativity, spontaneity, disruptiveness and high energy — these are some of the terms used when describing millennials. On the one hand, these are exactly the attributes needed for innovation and creation, and on the other, this is an energy that doesn’t respond very well to structure.

For any organisation that employs millennials, the perfect balance is achieved when you can harness that creative energy and spontaneity to help them grow as professionals as well as pour it into the company to help it grow as well.

People work for people, not companies

This is one of the oldest idioms in the corporate world and today this incorporates the company’s culture, the line manager, and openness in the teams they work in. Talent and line managers need to have high emotional quotient to handle millennials. Censuring them in front of their peer group kills their spirit, recognising them in a group builds their confidence.

A culture where they can build their tribes

The Gen Y has very strong tendencies towards building their own tribe. Whether it is around an interest, a skill or any other point of connect, they like to build communities — where everyone leads, everyone contributes and where everyone grows organically. If the organisation gives them the freedom to do that, the tribe builds stickiness for them. For instance, the usual offsite, picnic kind of team-building engagements won’t work for the millennials. They want to go with their own friends, who may not be only from work or only from their team.

Spontaneity works!

One of the best things about millennials is that if you give them room to create their own space and their own specialisations, you get an agile workforce that can reinvent itself to suit the need of the market. Especially in an industry as dynamic as ours, this agility gives us the edge we need. Step Up, our specialised offering for start-ups and investor networks, is an example of this. It was an idea born out of corridor conversations, and when the team was given the support they needed to run with it, the idea grew and came alive, because they understood the need of the start-ups.

Don’t try to put them in a box

Rejecting processes and systems comes naturally to the millennials, but not because they are being defiant. There are many demands on their attention, so they get bored and distracted easily. In their minds processes get in the way of their ability to contribute anytime anywhere.

The danger that spontaneity comes with is that of making costly mistakes because of non-compliance. They are digital natives, openly sharing their views, so there is a risk of them saying something that harms the reputation of our clients. The answer to that is not to clamp down their freedom, but to create awareness of the repercussions, without breaking their confidence.

Help them lead

The millennials are keenly aware of their reputation. Whether online or otherwise, they want to be seen as those with a following, seen as influencers. If the working environment helps them achieve that, they are much more engaged. It is important to give them platforms to be seen at the right places.

Also, they don’t have the patience for long-drawn routes to success, but want to create their own growth path. They are in it more for the experience rather than ‘a job’. If we can’t help them reinvent their career at least every 12-18 months, we lose them to another experience—a different role, different city or even a different country. Money is important, but not the primary motivator at this stage in life. For them, work is just one of the elements of the day, not their entire life. So unless they are encouraged to lead their choices at work, you don’t have their attention.

The role the organisation plays has to be that of a facilitator, an enabler and a protector. Gen Y responds best to those who allow them to spread their wings while holding a net below. And when they do spread their wings to fly, they take the organisation with them.

Kavita Rao, Chief Talent Engagement Officer, Genesis Burson-Marsteller

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