Generation Y - anyone born in 1980 or later - possesses a different work style than any generation preceding them. They have different goals and ideas and require a different managerial strategy to retain them. But given the right working conditions, employers can harness the best of this generation and trust them to lead businesses into the future.
As a trendsetting telecom firm, Hong Kong CSL sees the need to employ the younger generation with their new ways of thinking and working. Rita Chan, executive vice-president of human resources at Hong Kong CSL, regards managing Gen Y as an art form for employers.
"In recent years, managing the new generation has been a widely discussed topic among HR staff," says Chan. "Since their views are very different from the baby boomers or Generation X, we need to spend more time communicating with them to understand their thinking."
Chan says the new generation, who are generally technology driven, has created new challenges for the company. "Their opinions are spread through 'word-of-mouse' - not 'word-of-mouth' - and reach hundreds of thousands of people through Twitter, Facebook and similar social media networks," she says.
All front-desk sales people at Hong Kong CSL stores are given an iPad to serve clients. "In doing so, we attempt to sustain their curiosity and interest in their jobs," says Chan.
The younger staff are more outspoken and are not afraid of asking questions, compared with older generations, she adds. "They are keen to learn and are more open to new ideas. So we try to make better use of technologies, and avoid using conventional managerial styles."
The younger generation prefers to shift from job to job quickly and won't wait for five to 10 years for a promotion, according to Chan. Hence, the company is trying to offer them opportunities for career advancement in about two years' time, provided that they demonstrate their ability.
For instance, Hong Kong CSL staff and their family members of not more than five users are offered a special plan that allows them unlimited access to the internet at less than HK$100 a month. The company also arranges frequent self-learning modules whenever a new mobile phone technology is introduced.
It is important to keep workers happy and Chan believes retention has a lot to do with staff engagement. "I don't believe offering a higher salary is an effective retention strategy. Most important is giving them the feeling that their feedback is valued."
Chan says they are replenishing their talent pool through their graduate trainee programme. "We hired six graduates in 2011. As we are dedicated to delegate the best resources to develop them, our intake of graduate trainees will be kept below 10 every year," she adds.