Talking ‘bout Y Generation
…and managing it to success

With 4.5 million Gen Y Australians due to be in the workforce within the next five years, your team is set to feature a growing number of staff from this generation. By knowing what makes them tick you can light the fuse for business success, says Ryan Hogan.

Just like the industry in which it works, the frontline workforce in most fitness facilities is comparatively young. While it may seem ideal for the business of fitness to be conducted by sprightly young things, the conversation when club and studio owners get together will often turn to the difficulty of managing the younger generation – Gen Y. If you believe everything that’s said, you could be forgiven for thinking that this generation of individuals – born between the early ‘80s and late ‘90s – are lazy, blasé, couldn’t care less about work and, generally, don’t make very good employees. In fact, some employers – often of the Baby Boomer generation born from 1946 to the early sixties – express their reluctance to even hire members of Gen Y!

Regardless of your feelings on the matter, the fact is that with 4.5 million Gen Y Australians due to be in, or seeking, employment within the next five years, your business will probably employ or work with a growing percentage of this generation. It pays, therefore, to know what makes them tick – which in turn will make your business do the same.

With the characteristics of being highly connected, energetic, caring and technologically adept, Gen Y staff can bring many positive traits to your business. They can adapt to change quicker than previous generations, and, if managed correctly, can produce long lasting, positive effects for your club.

Taking the following tips onboard will help you manage a Gen Y workforce to success:

  1. Feedback, feedback, feedback! This generation is obsessed with feedback. They have received it for their whole lives, from their parents, teachers, and from friends online who respond to every status update, and they crave it when they leave the comfort of home for the big scary world. They want both positive and negative feedback. Without it, they will feel lost and alone.

    SWOT analyse them (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) and focus on developing a plan to address the weaknesses. Gen Y love a clearly defined plan and will appreciate your systematic and constant feedback. Having a specific timeframe for conducting performance appraisals will not only give them detailed feedback for their development, but also make your life easier. Even though Baby Boomers often just like to ‘get on with it’ and may not need, or even want, such feedback, it’s important to recognise that Gen Y do.
  2. Provide a frame of teamwork. Gen Y have grown up in a school and social system that places more emphasis on collaborating with others, whether peers or family. They are not as individualistic as earlier generations and appreciate working in groups. Gen Y like projects to be divided up into teams, and find working towards a common goal highly rewarding.

    Another reason for encouraging them to form teams is that if you don’t do so, they will form them themselves!
  3. Don’t assume they are tech or business savvy. While it’s true that Gen Y are very adept with technology, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they are adept at the software and data management that you employ. The good news is that they are fast learners when it comes to technology and will generally pick things up quickly. You should also not assume a level of competency when it comes to professional communications. This is a generation that grew up with SMS and emails, and may not automatically have the skills you require. Teach them how to greet, converse and write in a professional manner that reflects the brand of your club.
  4. Tell them how they are making a difference. Members of Gen Y relish being part of a larger cause and contributing to the greater good. Sometimes all that a member of Gen Y needs is to be told how they are making a difference in your business. Explain how their role fits into the bigger picture of your company, and that everything they do is critical to your shared success. If you consider reception staff to be the first step in the sales process – and therefore critical – tell them so! It will make a huge difference to how they perform their everyday activities. Taking this further, Gen Y also enjoy being part of corporate responsibility programs and volunteering their time to help others.
  5. Assume they are going to talk about you online. Whether you like it or not, your Gen Y workforce will discuss their workplace with their friends, and the public, online. This generation has lower expectations regarding online privacy, and will openly, immediately and continually share their thoughts online.

    If you have a company policy regarding social media use and email communications, make sure you are crystal clear when informing your staff. Banning social media is not terribly productive these days as it will just send everyone scurrying for their smart phones. Rather, ‘pick your battles’ and inform staff that private information, such as customer data and internal communications, should never be made public, even in an email to a friend.

By taking these points onboard, and making a conscious effort to keep an open mind and listen to your Gen Y staff, you can create a fully engaged and highly productive team.


Ryan Hogan, BComm
Australian Fitness Network's CEO, Ryan has 15 years experience in the fitness industry. With a keen understanding of business, sales and management trends, he is an enthusiastic and passionate manager of Gen Y'ers.