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Gen Y staff coaxed to aim higher
Published on Friday, 17 Jun 2011
Derek Lai
National leader for financial advisory services, Deloitte China

How do you manage members of the post-’80s generation?

For any large organisation, it is important to have staff keen to make the most of their talents and with the drive and ambition to move up to leadership positions. Otherwise, it becomes more difficult to sustain the business and build for the future.

Of course, not everyone is destined to reach the top, but among the post-'80s generation, we notice a common trait. Many in this group, though they don't say it directly, are not that interested in pushing for the next promotion or maximising their potential. They are intelligent and well educated, and work hard, but seem content to reach a certain level and, in career terms, go no further. It may be a matter of different values, but an employer can't afford to let talented people "switch off" - for their own good and the good of the business. 

Challenges 

It is possibly a bit unfair, but people born in Hong Kong in the 1980s are more or less spoilt, in the sense that they have generally had - and expect - a comfortable life. They grew up during a boom and, as a result, are less aggressive in their ambitions and not necessarily looking to take on extra or contribute more at work. We see a contrast with the '90s generation who comes across as tougher, more outgoing and eager to jump ahead.

Therefore, the challenge for us is to motivate staff who have been with the firm for six to 10 years and induce them to use all their strengths. If it seems people don't want to move up, say from manager to partner, we won't ask them to leave. But we do point out that senior roles and time for family life are not mutually exclusive and mention that a "value system" should include not wasting one's talent. 

Actions 

There is no wish to question anyone's personal values. But we do make special efforts to motivate, change certain attitudes and explain the employer's point of view. This takes the form of one-on-one discussions and coaching sessions. Typically, we choose suitable examples to highlight success stories within the firm and, perhaps, explain that people can't really expect to be "left alone".

In a work environment that essentially depends on teamwork and needs leaders coming through the ranks, individuals have a responsibility to play their part. Sometimes, we emphasise how career progress provides new skills to deal effectively with family issues and non-work situations.

The main aim of the coaching is to show that a balance is possible and to remind post-'80s staff of the obligation to stretch themselves. 

Feedback and results 

Overall, we don't dictate behaviour. The basic measure of performance is results and whether you deliver on work assignments. Where it is necessary to inspire greater personal ambition, some individuals are obviously more ready to change than others. No one will say openly that they don't want to be partner, but it is quite easy to see who treats their role as a job and who regards it as a career. As an employer, we can be nice, but at the end of the day, staff must show they are committed and willing to put in the effort.