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Managing Staff

Generation Y, The Downturn and Your Business

Dr Graeme Codrington explains why Generation Y is different, and what you can do to get the most out of them, especially during a recession.





The matric students of 2009 were born after Nelson Mandela was released and have done their entire schooling in the new South Africa. They are part of a group of young people known internationally as Generation Y. The oldest of this generation is already working for you, and they bring a very different attitude to the workplace. Why Generation Y is different, and what you can do to get the most out of them, especially during a recession?

It’s been 20 years since some of the most amazing moments of human history changed our world forever. In the first few months of 1989, students led a Chinese revolution, culminating in June’s iconic Tiananmen Square protests. In Iran, the Ayatollah’s funeral brought two million young Iranians to the streets on 6 June 1989. On 23 August 1989, two million people in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania held hands across their countries to form a single human chain to protest Soviet occupation.

On 9 November that same year, the Berlin wall came down, and a few days later Prague experienced a “velvet revolution” as hundreds of thousands took to the streets. On Christmas day, 1989, the Romanian dictator, Nicolae Ceausescu was hanged outside his palace. The following day, Mikhail Gorbachev proclaimed perestroika and banned the communist party in Russia. And, on 11 February 1990, Nelson Mandela was released after 27 years in jail.

Eight months, and the entire world was changed – north, south, east and west. And today’s 20-something young people can’t remember any of it – for them, it’s just history. They’ve grown up in a new world, not just politically, but also technologically. Windows was released in 1992, the first SMS was sent from a cellphone in Finland in 1993, and Netscape Navigator was launched in 1994, quickly capturing 90% of the Internet browsing market.

And economically, they’ve never really experienced much of a downturn. The IT bust of March 2000, following the complete non-event of the Y2K bug (remember that?), now seems like a mere blip in what was an almost unbroken boom period through the 1990s to September 2008.

Generation Y: Freedom’s children

This quick history lesson is important context. Generational theory explains that people born during the same era are influenced, shaped and moulded by society’s reaction to world events. Today’s young people, sometimes called Generation Y, have grown up in a very different world, and have different values and attitudes. Understanding this will make it easier to identify what motivates and drives your younger employees and consumers and how you can influence them. It’s important to understand that they’re unlike any generation that has preceded them.

There is no consensus over the exact birth dates that define Generation Y. In America, and therefore in most mainstream media, they are normally defined as the young people born from 1978 to 2002. In South Africa, they’re generally regarded as the children who cannot remember apartheid, born from the late 1980s onwards. Either way, they’re your youngest employees and customers, and more of them are “coming soon to an office near you”.

Wake up call

We’re talking about a generation of people who have experienced very little adversity in their lives thus far. This is their first economic downturn, and most of them have been taken by surprise. I was speaking with a business owner recently, who had just realised that most of his young sales team had never actually sold anything. His industry had been growing so much over the past 10 years, with his products so easy to sell, that in all honesty, his “sales” team had been more of an order taking team; they had never needed to chase down sales or do cold calling.

As the recession hit, they needed to develop real selling skills. After a few difficult months, this business owner had done some hard-core sales training. He turned his young team around – from low morale, almost depressed, to thriving and excited about hunting for new leads and closing sales. These young people might exude confidence, but they’re actually new to the world of work, and might need a bit more handholding and training than they appear to.

Because this generation of young people grew up with digital technology, they expect everyone else to be as comfortable as they are using it. And because they grew up in a world filled with the optimism about change, they became fearless about the future. As a result, they may be somewhat lost in this time of economic recession. Because this generation has been extremely pampered and nurtured since they were toddlers, with every moment of their days filled with adult-led activities, they are both high-performance and high-maintenance, with a strong sense of self-worth.

In other words, if you’re prepared to put in some effort, they could be brilliant for you right now.

A different frame of mind

Leaders need to understand that a younger generation of staff and customers, who have never experienced a downturn, have different expectations of the workplace and will respond to the stress of the current environment in different ways to older people. Not just because they are younger, but also because they have a different set of generational values guiding their attitudes and behaviours. As frustrating as they might sometimes be, your business can benefit greatly from their outlook, energy and passion. But it will take dedicated leadership – and a mindset shift – to make it happen.

How to get more from the me generation

  • Communicate differently. Generation Y’ers prefer short and sharp emails to long-winded memos, they stay connected via social media, and they are comfortable using text messages for formal communication. Improve your use of digital communication, and don’t restrict their access to it.
  • Meetings and teams. Older staff may expect a phone call or face-to-face meetings on important topics, but younger workers prefer virtual problem solving. They want meetings to be short, to the point, and interactive – they don’t see the value of a meeting or presentation if all you do is speak at them; rather just send an email. They work best in teams when they have a specific and unique contribution in the team.
  • They need to know “why”. They are less likely to respond to the traditional command-and-control type of management still popular in many of today’s workplaces. They’ve grown up questioning parents and teachers – and they will question their managers, too. Unless they have been given a reason to do something, they won’t be inclined to do it. This is a critical issue in difficult times – it may seem obvious to management that the strategy presented to the team makes sense and is appropriate for the situation, but has the reason why it will work been explained?
  • Give them constant feedback. An annual review is insufficient – they want feedback at the end of every project, whether it’s a day, week or month-long event. They also want a personal mentor or coach.
  • Help them grow and they’ll stay. In a world where there is no job security, today’s young people are passionate about developing their CVs and ensuring their skills are current and honed. The recession might give them a reason to stay with you slightly longer than they anticipated, but don’t be complacent about staff turnover. As an upturn begins, they might be the first out of the door if you take them for granted now. It may be a paradox, but the more confident your people are that they could get another job somewhere else, the more likely they are to stay with you. Spend time developing them, and finding out why they work for you, really (tip: it’s not because they want to make you or your shareholders rich). Help them achieve their personal goals, and they’ll help you achieve yours.
  • They hate being bored or doing insignificant work. They need to be kept busy, and they need to know that the work they do makes a meaningful contribution. They’re multi-taskers and they don’t like to stay too long on any one assignment
  • They have very different priorities. Whereas older staff members generally see loyalty to the company as a given and don’t have to be asked to work overtime and put their employer first; younger employees are much more likely to prioritise family and personal commitments, especially when they know you’re unlikely to be paying bonuses this year. They also want to have fun at the workplace – this might be easiest to forget during tough times.

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Managing Staff

How To Build Better Employee Engagement

Here are my 10 tips for managers wishing to build real engagement.

Dr John Demartini




Everything begins with values; with the top three highest priorities in an individual’s life. These are the source of that person’s primary purpose and the underlying determinants of their perceptions, decisions and behaviours.

In the context of managers wanting to help their teams to develop mindsets geared towards connection, conversation and experimentation, within a healthy environment, the process must begin with value determination.

Advice for managers

Here are my 10 tips for managers wishing to build real engagement:

  1. Write down the job duties that your people actually have: Their current, accurate, and most up-to-date daily action steps.
  2. Spend some time determining what their values are. You can use the free online tool on my website –
  3. Once you have determined your highest values (the three things that are most important to you in your life, where you demonstrate your greatest discipline, reliability, focus and productivity), you’ll need to find the links between employees’ job duties (Step 1) and their highest values. This is a very specific and detailed step, unpacked below.
  4. The question to ask is, “How specifically will performing this particular job duty help me to fulfill my current top three values?”


Let’s say one of your team members is a payroll administrator. Her job duties might include: checking how many hours employees have worked; calculating and issuing pay; deducting tax and other benefits; processing leave and expenses; calculating overtime; answering staff queries; and giving advice.

Let’s presume one of her top three highest-order values is her children. The way to connect what she does with what she values is to ask questions like these, in order to make links and help her see them in context:

  • Does working with numbers help you teach your children to pay attention to detail?
  • Does making calculations help you help your children with homework?
  • Does knowing the art of fair exchange give you a lesson to teach your children?
  • By doing your work, are you earning the income you need to fund your children’s education?
  • If it’s tedious work but you don’t give up, is that good role modelling for your children?
  • Does knowing about money management, and sharing this with your colleagues, help them to help their own children?
  • Does advising others make you better at giving your children counsel?

Related: Why Conflict Resolution Is A Matter Of Matching Values

  1. The magic number to shoot for is 20 links, not seven. Once you get to 20, for some reason, it ‘clicks’ and people can see that what they do every day is (or can be) valuable and meaningful. Be aware that some links are harder to find than others. Some are obvious; some, more tenuous.
  2. Look for fluency. If the employee hesitates or can’t answer the question easily or at all, this is a sign that the job duty is incongruent with their highest values and they are not going to be inspired about that particular duty. (In this case, keep asking them how that specific duty would or could help them to fulfil their highest values, until they can see a connection.)
  3. This is a big job. Value determination and link creation can take a whole day or more, the first time you do it, depending on the size of your team.
  4. To create better connections between your people, use the same process to cross-link others’ three highest values with your three highest values. Go through the entire team, making a list of values across everyone you manage. Look at the common threads. This will help you achieve more equitable leadership, better management and healthier relationships.
  5. For better work conversations, remember that dialogue comes from equal values (or else you simply have alternating monologue). Employees must know each other’s values. You, the manager, must master the skill of communicating your high-priority intentions, expectations and delegations in terms of each employee’s top three values.
  6. Intrinsically, people love solving problems that align with their values, so fulfilling their values will give them the courage to experiment.

Remember: People go to work every day to fulfill themselves, not for the sake of a company. For this reason, managers must enable their people to explicitly connect their own values with their everyday, real-world job duties, so that they become engaged, feel grateful for their collegial support system, and are inspired to go beyond the call of duty and to innovate.

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Managing Staff

6 Ways To Break Bad News To Your Team

We asked six leaders: How did you handle sharing the hardest news of your career?





Being the bearer of bad news is never fun. But there comes a time in everyone’s lives, when they’ve got to step up to the plate. This is especially true in business. When you’re in a leadership position at a company, knowing how to deliver bad news is a crucial skill. To help you out, we asked six leaders for their advice on delivering bad news to teams.

Here’s what they had to say:

1. With a promise

“After the economic meltdown of 2008, we couldn’t afford to keep everyone on staff. Picking who stays and who goes is one of the most difficult decisions you have to make as CEO. I delivered the news with honesty and empathy at an all-hands meeting. We gave some severance, referral to an employment service and a personal reference. We also gave the option to rejoin our team once things were back on track, and some did! It was a homecoming of sorts, a healing moment.” – Ori Eisen, founder and CEO, Trusona 

2. With support

“In 2016, our office manager passed away. She was only 26. We called a mandatory meeting, let everyone know, and brought in grief counselors. The hardest part was controlling my own emotions in front of the company. This was a crucial moment, and the team needed a leader. We organised a memorial service to celebrate her life. It took time for the business to return to a normal cadence, but her impact remains at the company today.” – Rahul Gandhi, co-founder and CEO, MakeSpace

Related: 22 Qualities That Make A Great Leader

3. With transparency

“In New York, construction delays are as common as yellow taxis. But when you’re working to open a new restaurant location and have promoted staff to run it, construction delays don’t impact just revenue but your team’s livelihood as well. Delaying promotions for people who have worked hard to earn them is tough news to deliver. But we invited the team to the construction site to see the space and ask questions, and it helped everyone get on the same page.” – Otto Cedeno, founder, Otto’s Tacos

4. With community

“The worst news my husband and I had to share with our employees, and kids, was that we’d decided to move our business from New York to Los Angeles. We gave employees the option to stay with us and relocate. Some came west, and others did not. We couldn’t guarantee that those who moved with us would love L.A., but we promised to figure it out together.” – Cortney Novogratz, co-founder, The Novogratz

5. With a plan

“One of my first experiences as an entrepreneur was running a restaurant, which I closed as a result of 2008’s downturn. I knew this was going to be life-changing for my team. We did everything we could to ease the disruption, and I leveraged my network to place laid-off employees in new positions – nearly 90 percent had jobs in just a few weeks. As a business owner, failure is hard, but it’s an opportunity to prove yourself as a leader.” – Michael Wystrach, co-founder and CEO, Freshly 

Related: 15 Of South Africa’s Business Leaders’ Best Advice For Your Business

6. With reason

“After I joined Interactions as CEO, my team and I identified significant roadblocks in our product development. We had been on an aggressive growth track, but it was clear we needed to right the ship. I told my board and team that we were shutting down sales to double down on R&D. Hitting pause was an incredibly hard decision, but it was necessary to ensure we were providing the best product and experience for our customers.” – Mike Iacobucci, CEO, Interactions

This article was originally posted here on

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Managing Staff

Why Small Businesses Are Unable To Pay Staff Salaries

Let’s look at it from a different angle and see if we’ll arrive at that same conclusion.

Matthew Mordi




We’ve heard countless times the constant conflict between employers and employees over non-payment of salaries. Small business owners complain employees don’t understand what they have to go through to ensure the payment of staff salaries.

The moment they’re unable to meet up with the payment of staff salaries, workers accuse them of being wasteful when business was booming. So the age old story of members of staff not being understanding comes up again. The cost of running the business which includes maintenance of machinery, rents, paying off loans; all these and much more which sums up overhead cost.

While it’s true that overhead cost is usually the main challenge of small businesses, it’s true only in part. Let’s look at it from a different angle and see if we’ll arrive at that same conclusion.

Usually a lot of small business owners don’t save for the rainy day, neither do they invest income generated by the business for the benefit of the business. Personal savings and investment isn’t the same with that of the business. Small business owners tend to save and invest income generated by the business in their personal names.

Related: Start-Up Law:  I’m A Start-up Founder. Can I Pay Employees With Shares?

Let’s look at this scenario:

Mr A. is the owner of a grocery shop. People are patronising the business. Business is booming, everything seems perfect. At this point there is usually no problem paying salaries and overhead. This is the tricky part, what the employer does with the income the business is generating at this point apart from ploughing the money back into the business will decide whether he’ll be able to pay salaries when business is slow.

One would expect the owner of the store to not only save but also invest some of the income made by the business.

This is usually not the case because it’s at this point of booming business and perceived excess cash that the owner remembers he’ll pay himself more than he usually does (and that is if he pays himself salary), needs to move to a bigger apartment or better still, buy a bigger car.

The moment there is downturn in sales as a result low patronage, the problem of payment of staff salary begins. Mr A. makes it clear to his employees that the business isn’t turning in a profit and he’s using his personal money to pay staff salary. Therefore, he can’t keep on doing it and he’ll have to owe salaries.

This could have been avoided.

Do diligent – don’t dilly dally

What happened to the excess profit of years before? It’s obvious the employer hadn’t been diligent with the funds. Instead of investing the money to ensure it generates further income for the benefit of the business for the rainy day, the employer would instead use the profit for his own personal benefit.

If Mr A. had saved the money and income generated by his grocery store in preparation for the rainy day, the company wouldn’t be caught up in the quagmire it was put in.

A business is a separate entity from the founder, whether it’s a small or a large corporation they should stay so; separate. I’m not talking about the technicalities of whether it’s a company or business name. We have to realise that in order for the business to not only survive but also succeed, it must be separate from the owner.

This is one aspect small businesses must learn from large corporations with sound financial plan. There are times these corporations declare losses, yet they’re able to pay salaries! Money made by the business should be for the business. It’s not the time to buy that new car. If employers work with the mindset of paying themselves salaries (not excessive), it would go a long way to ensure the business is afloat even during uncertain economic times.

Related: How To Structure A Fair Salary That Will Motivate Your Sales Team

In fairness, some employers who own small businesses have been exceptional in this regard. However, the fact is, majority of small business owners don’t function with this mindset. Businesses, just like it obtains in our personal lives, have their ups and downs. The things you do or don’t do during the ups are equally as important as what you do during the downs. Save, save and save. You can’t go wrong with this. Invest, invest and invest. You can’t go wrong with this either.

That profit isn’t for spending; at least not yet. Invest the money like you would do with yours. Invest it in the name of the business. Let your business own shares in other businesses. This is sound business practice.

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