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Create a Gen Y-Friendly Employee Handbook

There have been lots of discussions about Gen Y â€\" also known as the anti-establishment. And employee handbooks are about as establishment as you can get. But they’re not likely to go away anytime soon.

June 4, 2009
Related Topics: Strategy and Management
KEYWORDS metrics
There have been lots of discussions about Gen Y — also known as the anti-establishment. And employee handbooks are about as establishment as you can get. But they’re not likely to go away anytime soon.

Employee handbooks typically are sterile and very “corporate,” and these two words definitely do not capture Gen Y employees’ hearts. This group is not interested in the typical corporate ladder but is inspired by the ideal career path. Since fit is a critical factor in employee retention, give a potential hire a glimpse of your employee handbook to send the Gen Y candidate a clear message about who and what your company values.

It’s not necessarily prudent to have a different handbook for every generation, but for Gen Y, it’s a great solution since this generation views work much differently than previous generations.

How to Write a Handbook

Capture the Gen Y audience with fun and humor. Don’t take the handbook too seriously. Personalize it with current events and fads. For example, compare customers to stars competing for “American Idol” stardom. Listen to what these employees listen to and watch on television and the Web to get indicators of analogies to use. Also, Gen Y wants to know and understand the big picture. So be sure to answer the question “why” with all policies.

Some policies are more important to address than others, based on Gen Y’s expectations. For instance, Gen Y employees naturally like to work in teams and work with their friends. Some employers are even hiring groups of friends for positions. But it is critical to have a policy on what is and is not acceptable in the team environment. Again, use humor if possible. Workplaces have gotten increasingly casual, but if the organization perceives attire as an important item, address it in the handbook. Provide pictures and examples to get the point across.

Communication style varies greatly between the generations, so it’s necessary to spell out your policy in the handbook. Since Gen Y prefers e-mail and texting, have a policy in place for those types of communications. If it is not appropriate to text in the middle of a meeting, say so. But say it with humor and explain the “why.”

Capture not only the mindshare but also the hearts of Gen Y employees by touting corporate social responsibility and community involvement. Continually inform employees about the company’s positive impact on society. If employees identify with the company’s social mission, they are more likely to stick around.

Workplace flexibility also is a hot topic with Gen Y employees. Clearly spell out workplace expectations, and don’t forget the “why.”

Be Innovative to Get Gen Y to Read the Handbook

Delivery is important to the success of any handbook. Deliver it in multiple formats and consider texting and e-mailing policy updates. A blog can be an effective way to keep Gen Y employees apprised of corporate updates. Remember to seek their feedback constantly and provide them with regular feedback.

Gen Yers expect to have fun at work. They also expect to be encouraged to take risks and want to see that rules can be broken a little bit. Ultimately, this generation wants to do a good job. To capture their hearts, which is key to retaining these valuable employees, take a good look at your handbook. With a little tweaking, the employee handbook can be a retention tool instead of just a policy guide.
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