Generation Y – The Millennial Generation at Work

An article by guest writer Leona Lim. Refer to “About the Writer” at the end of the post.

“I want to work, learn and gain solid experience. I am willing to work hard but I do not want work to be my life.  I would like to be part of a firm that can offer me the best work life balance.” I hear these words quite frequently in my workplace and they are likely to be uttered by my junior colleagues.

Three years ago, I was managing a relatively small team. I noticed some “not so subtle” differences in the manner in which my younger colleagues conducted themselves in the workplace. Perhaps the leading issue I was confronted with was what appeared to be an apparent lack of commitment on their part. I would do my best to accommodate their needs but it never seemed to be sufficient. I started to wonder if I was the only one experiencing such conduct from my younger colleagues in the workplace.

I began discussing this phenomenon with my peers. I discovered that my colleagues and counterparts in other firms were experiencing similar issues. They are “Generation Y”.

What is Generation Y? Judging from the results that emerged when conducting a search on the internet, a lot has been written about this already.

Some believe Gen Y-ers were born between 1980 and 1995. Other schools of thought believe they were born between 1978 and 1989.  Yet others believe they were born between 1982 and 2000. There appears to be no consensus on the exact period within which Gen Y-ers were born. What appears to be a relatively consistent comment among those who try to define a Gen Y-er is that they are likely to be in their 20s and entering the workforce as one of the fastest growing segments.

Gen Y-ers, also known as the Millennial Generation has shown some similarities with other generations, such as Gen X-ers (likely born between 1961 and 1981) and Baby Boomers (likely born between 1943 and 1960). Gen Y-ers, like the generations that came before them, have been shaped by the developments, events as well as trends of its time. The Millennials’ have a reputation for being peer-oriented due to easier facilitation of communication through the internet, email, texting, and social networking sites like Facebook, MySpace and Twitter. These allow users to freely share information and keep in touch. Like icing on the cake, the transfer of information takes place in nanoseconds. It is all about instant gratification. I began to see the connection between this and their need to fast track through the ranks in the workplace.

Apparently, Gen Y-ers are perceived as pampered, high performance and high maintenance individuals. They are less likely to respond to a “command and control” type management. In fact, they are likely be aggravated by the “do as I say and do it now” style of management. In my experience, such a military style of management will arouse seeds of discontent and send sparks flying. You have been forewarned.

Unlike the generations that came before them, that is, the Gen X-ers and baby boomers, they are not likely to put a high priority on career. This does not mean that they do not care about climbing the corporate ladder. Quite the contrary, in fact. Ask a Gen Y-er how long he or she has been in their current job and the answer is likely to be: not very long. They do not believe that it pays to stay in one place and are skeptical of company loyalty. They view themselves as faster and better workers. Changing jobs is viewed as the best way to move up the corporate ladder.

Expression and acceptance is viewed and will be highly important to this generation. They have high expectations of their employers too so constant feedback is expected and mere annual reviews will not suffice. Career paths therefore need to be carefully considered and mapped clearly.

Make no mistake. Family and personal lives are of key significance to them so flexibility is the theme of the day. In order to enable them to balance a budding career with family life, flexible work arrangements ranging from the option to work from home, telecommuting and working part-time feature high on the list of perks that would attract a Gen Y-er to join a firm.

In an effort to stay ahead of the game and remain an employer of choice, my firm conducts an annual survey to determine the top three issues of concern to its employees. Not surprisingly, communication, career development and flexibility/lifestyle all feature in the top three. I am now part of a working group set up to manage the results of the survey and am tasked with identifying ways to offer our employees a better lifestyle and flexibility in the workplace.

What then, of the next generation, Generation Z? We do not know a lot about the characteristics of Generation Z yet. They are still evolving and developing in a more highly diverse environment than that which existed with the Gen Y-ers. Generation Z kids are growing up in a highly sophisticated computer environment. What is clear at the moment is that Generation Z children will be more Internet savvy and expert than their Generation X parents.

More to come on Generation Z. Watch this space…

About the Writer

The writer is a working mother and a career manager.

2 thoughts on “Generation Y – The Millennial Generation at Work

  1. Thought provoking and enjoyable article, Leona! Love how your artfully weave into the story 🙂

    Much as I respect technology’s power to transform, I suspect the uniqueness of Gen Y’ers are more easily explained by rising affluence, shrinking families, and increasing family time, all trends that we’re still seeing in our own kids…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s