Understanding “Gen Y’s” Workplace Expectations

gen y in the workplaceBridging the generational gap at work is quickly becoming an essential part of running an effective business.  As Generation Y (also known as “Gen Y” or the “Millenials”) workers enter the workforce, changes in their expectations have dramatically revolutionized the way companies must compete to attract and retain these employees.

Members of Gen Y – those born between 1984-2004 – are blessed with entrepreneurial spirits, can rapidly adapt to changing business environments and are great at bringing new ideas and ways of getting things done to the table.  But whether or not you like their free-thinking ways, your business isn’t going to be able to survive without them – by 2025, Gen Y will comprise roughly 75% of the available workforce.

Yes, these workers think differently, they expect more and they don’t adhere to old standards – but don’t be afraid.  When managed appropriately, Gen Y workers can offer a whole new world of profitability and efficiency to the businesses they join.

What Gen Y Employees Want

Mobile Technology

It’s no secret that the world is changing at the speed of technology, but it may surprise you just how much of that technology is mobile.  According to a report conducted by Cisco, global mobile traffic was up 70% in 2012.  In addition, the company predicts that this traffic volume will increase by 13 times between now and 2017 when – coincidentally – the number of mobile devices on the planet stands to eclipse the world’s population!

Interestingly, most of that technology isn’t being used for Facebook games or tweeting.  It’s being used by Gen Y’s in the workplace, where mobile tablets gobbled up 1.5 times more traffic than all other devices combined.

The good part about this change is that Gen Y workers have grown up with this technology in their personal lives, so adapting it for use in the business world should come as second nature to them.  As a result, your Gen Y employees will be better equipped to work from home or other non-office environments – improving your productivity and decreasing your overhead expenses.

Open and Cooperative Workplace

The way Gen Y’s learned in school has been much different than older generations.  Instead of rote recitation, Gen Y’s were taught to actively engage in thought through the implementation of cooperative classrooms.  This type of environment invites more give and take between students and teachers than was found in any other generation before.  As a result, it’s no surprise that Gen Y workers want this trend to continue into the workplace!

Robin Barbacane, President of BlueHawk Associates and SHRM certified executive, says “Gen Y employees are wired to seek and give feedback.  They want their opinions to matter and they want to know how what they are doing is affecting the company.”

A study by the Developmental Testing Service – called the GenY Project – supports this.  Of the top seven attributes Gen Y’s associate with good bosses, three are approachability, trustworthiness and respectfulness.  Additionally, 50% of those polled said that working at a company that actively built community and encouraged collaboration was “very important” or “essential” to their future career considerations.

Flexible Job Descriptions

Gen Y’s are powered by an entrepreneurial spirit – interestingly, “owner” is the 5th most popular job description listed on their Facebook profiles.  But that doesn’t mean you can’t harness that energy to your own ends or that you have to give up control over your workplace.

Simple solutions, such as letting Gen Y’s work flexible schedules cultivate the feeling of “freedom” that Gen Y’s crave.  It’s a trend the business world is moving towards anyway.  The National Small Business Association reports that work from home arrangements jumped by 44% in 2012.  Additionally, the Telework Advisory Group shows that the Gen Y workforce accounts for 42% of that telecommuting population.

In order to embrace this modern trend, you may have to adjust your management style to focus on goals rather than actions.  Also, consider creating collaborative teams – rather than structuring your workforce in the traditional top-down manner.  This allows for inspiration and creativity, while still allowing the company to work towards set end goals.

Finally, giving your Gen Y’s responsibility and allowing them an opportunity to shine could net unprecedented results.  The GenY Project mentioned above discovered that 50% of Gen Y respondents listed “risk taking,” “novel solutions to old problems” and “giving employees the freedom to do their jobs” as “very important” or “essential” in their career considerations – so don’t be afraid to loosen your workplace policies and restrictions in some cases.

Opportunities for Advancement

The majority of Gen Y’s aren’t content to sit around being cubicle monkeys and don’t want a career made up of decades slowly climbing the corporate ladder.  Unsurprisingly, personal development, professional development and ongoing education opportunities were rated as “very important” by a whopping 75% of Gen Y respondents when asked what they looked for in a good employer.

Of course, you have to temper this raw ambition while ensuring that Gen Y employees learn the skills they need to help your business succeed.  For this reason, performance appraisals can be a good way to keep your Gen Y’s on track and motivated.

The bottom line is that Gen Y workers will become an integral part of the business environment – if they haven’t already.  By adapting to their expectations – rather than fighting to go back to the “old ways” – you can make the most out of their drive, spirit and ingrained skills in order to reap unprecedented rewards for your company.


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