Generation Y, those brash, überconfident youngsters
typically defined as born between 1982 and 2005, are taking
corporate America by storm. They expect promotions, flexible
work schedules, lots of vacation time and more money, as if
those benefits were their right, not something to be earned.
But because Generation Y represents the workforce of the
future, employers are changing stodgy HR policies in response
to their demands, according to a survey conducted by
CareerBuilder and Harris Interactive.
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The survey of 2,546 hiring managers and human resources
professionals was designed to explore the challenges, benefits
and impact of Generation Y’s entrance into the workforce, said
Rosemary Haefner, CareerBuilder’s vice president of human
resources, via e-mail. The research was conducted in June 2007.
CareerBuilder defined Generation Y professionals as those age
29 and younger.
Generation Y is colliding with older generations on the job,
and the differences among baby boomers’, Generation X’s and
Generation Y’s communication styles, job expectations and
cultural frames of reference can create tension among these
workers and hamper productivity. (Baby boomers are typically
born between 1946 and 1964, according to the U.S. Census
Bureau. Definitions for Generation X birthdates vary; a Census
Bureau study put the range from 1968 to 1979; other researchers
and reference sources define the demographic as those born 1965
The survey results reveal major differences in the way
Generation Y, Generation X and baby boom employees communicate.
Almost half of respondents (49 percent) noted Generation Y’s
preference to communicate through technology (blogs, instant
messaging and text messaging, for example), as opposed to
having face-to-face or phone conversations, the preferred
methods of baby boomers and Generation X.
Generation Y’s different cultural frame of reference, noted
by 25 percent of survey respondents, also heightens the
generation gap in the workplace. “The Gen Y frame of reference
tends to be influenced by technology – blogs, Internet sites,
etc. – where Gen X’s and baby boomers’ frames of reference are
more influenced by traditional media such as TV and print,”
writes Haefner. “Given that each of these generations grew up
at different times, the shows and music they reference are
different. While Gen X is more likely to make Seinfeld references, Gen Y is
more likely to refer to The Hills,” she adds, referring
to the hit quasi-reality show on MTV.
Communication Styles a Key Generational Difference
“Communication style probably has a greater impact on
productivity and morale than frame of reference,” said Haefner.
“Gen Y workers tend to communicate more through technology, so
communications tend to be abbreviated and at times abrupt.” The
tone and meaning of those truncated, abbreviated messages are
Further complicating matters among Generation Y, Generation
X and baby boom workers is the fact that 55 percent of
employers over the age of 35 think Generation Y workers have a
more difficult time following directions or responding to
supervisors than older generations.
Another significant difference between Generation Y and
older workers that creates tension is Generation Y’s
expectations of how they will be treated on the job. A whopping
87 percent of survey respondents say some or most Generation Y
workers feel more entitled to receive better compensation and
benefits and faster career advancement than older workers. To
- 74 percent of employers say Generation Y workers expect
to be paid more.
- 61 percent say Generation Y workers expect to have
flexible work schedules.
- 56 percent say Generation Y workers expect to be
promoted within a year.
- 50 percent say Generation Y workers expect to have more
vacation or personal time.
- 37 percent say Generation Y workers expect to have
access to state-of-the-art technology.
Older workers aren’t the only ones who believe that
Generation Y feels more entitled. Seventy-three percent of
hiring managers and HR professionals age 25 to 29 also say
Generation Y workers expect more money, promotions, flexible
work schedules and vacation time. (For more information on
Generation Y’s upbringing and its impact on the workplace, read
Management Techniques for Bringing
Out the Best in Generation Y.)
Generation Y has been so vocal about its job expectations
that employers are beginning to take notice. Fifteen percent of
employers said they changed their HR policies or implemented
new ones to cater to Generation Y workers. Among the changes
- 57 percent have introduced more flexible work
- 33 percent have implemented more recognition
- 26 percent give employees more access to
- 26 percent have increased salaries and bonuses.
- 24 percent offer more ongoing training programs.
- 20 percent pay for cell phones and BlackBerrys.
- 18 percent offer more telecommuting options.
- 11 percent increased vacation time.
Haefner notes that these changes benefit all workers, not
just those from Generation Y. “As companies’ culture evolves
with each generation, you’ll see all workers benefiting from a
variety of viewpoints and work styles,” she says.