Mar 6, 2009

Invest in a downturn

Do you know what your workforce is thinking?  The words (below) of ‘The Clash’ are actually about a rocky personal relationship between Jones and former Meat Loaf backup singer Ellen Foley that would soon implode. The lyrics seem to reflect the ups and downs concerning the relationship and the dilemma of sticking with or ending 'it' – whether or not you think there can be any correlation between a personal relationship and that between an individual and a company is up to you, but read these words and see if they ring any truth in what might be going round a Generation Y head in the current economic environment:

Should I stay or should I go now? Should I stay or should I go now? If I go there will be trouble, An if I stay it will be double, So come on and let me know, This indecisions bugging me, If you don’t want me, set me free (The Clash, 1981)

Popular opinion seems to suggest that all that ‘infantile job-hopping stuff’ is over and Gen Y are on the back-foot.  We think:  re-think!  If you aren’t investing in the short-term, are they likely to stick with you in the medium to long-term?  But it’s not all about shelling out loads of cash.

Here’s two top tips for Managing Gen Y in a downturn:  First, are you showing them that they are on a Journey.  Really?  Can you identify together where they are on that journey?  What are the next steps?  Can you find them a mentor to help them achieve these ambitions?  Is their role defined?  Do they know what they will be measured by?

Second, ensure you are Transparent about the future.  Finding out through the papers that you are being fired isn’t great.  If you know you have to let them go, let them know ASAP.  We recently heard about a Y Gen who was told he was in the ‘at risk’ zone in a Baby Boomer dominated firm.  What this really meant was that he was about to be made redundant.  This isn’t just a relationship between the individual and the firm, it’s between you and your employee too.  Who knows, this great person that you are having to lay-off today may be wanted again in 2-3 years (once they have more experience).  The end can sometimes be the beginning.

Invest in Relationships, especially in a downturn.


  1. Boomers worry too, and many 'at risk' now are unlikely ever to work again. And if they are the key knowledge-keepers in the firm there's much to lose if they go. Maybe also it would be a loosening of old ties and time for reinvention. The firms that can get this right will prosper.

    Dave S

  2. David, Agreed. There is another pressing issue which is Knowledge/ Wisdom transfer between the generations - another blog to follow on this soon. Chr