Many remember what the world was like before Google. Those who are at least 30 years old used phone books, went to the library—even made phone calls when they had a question.
But those who belong to the newest generation, Generation Y, have likely never lived in such a world. For people born between 1980 or so and the 2000s, the Internet has always existed, moms have always worked outside the home and cell phones have always been around. Clearly, Generation Y has a different mindset than its predecessors.
But what about work ethic? That answer is emerging. Ask around and you’ll find no shortage of employers who believe that Gen-Yers require too much feedback and positive reinforcement, and may expect inflated job titles or unreasonable amounts of workplace flexibility.
But others, like Kenneth Gronbach, a demographer and generational marketing consultant based in Haddam, Conn., believe the group brings a unique set of positive qualities that employers can harness. To do that, employers will need to know what matters most to Gen-Y, and how to capitalize on its strengths. Gronbach offers the following insights.
- Gen-Yers are extreme multitaskers. They are able to—and enjoy—doing five things at once. They don’t understand a workplace that requires them to complete one task at a time, and they don’t like inflexible work environments. They can work on spreadsheets while listening to their iPod. And they can research the Internet while on a sales call. They hate micromanagement, so if their work is done by 3 p.m., they see no reason to stick around the office just to look busy.
- They’re hardworking. As they graduate from college, Gen-Yers are facing higher unemployment rates than any living generation. But they’re no strangers to competition. Growing up, they faced more intense pressure to excel in youth sports, take college courses in high school and land internships. So they’re likely willing to go the extra mile when pleasing a boss.
- They’re fiercely ambitious. This generation is competitive. They competed for mom’s attention and competed hard in youth sports, so they look for advancement opportunities at every corner of their career. They’re typically not satisfied with punching in at 9 a.m., and punching out at 5 p.m. with filler work in between. They want their work life to be meaningful individually, and in society.
- They’re socially conscious. Not only are Gen-Yers constantly aware of their impact on the environment, they’re also conscious about others’ feelings. They’re big fans of fairness, whether that applies to co-workers, suppliers or customers. “If they perceive an employer as having a negative humanitarian stance, they’ll have issues,” Gronbach says.
- They’re still young. This is more of a reminder than an insight. While Generation Y is ambitious, hardworking, reliable, quick and tech-savvy, they’re also still young. They’re focused on personal relationships, themselves and having fun.
Read more hiring and recruiting tips