Gen Y in the Workplace

in Digital Marketing Strategy & Trends | by David Capece

What Employers Can Do To Attract Gen Y Talent in the Workplace

Written by Anthony Portuesi, Driven Leaders

Edited by Ethan Lyon, Sparxoo

generation y in the workplace
Courtesy of Manuel Lino

76 million. That’s the estimated size of Gen-Y, according to Fast Company, with many yet to reach the workforce. The subject of how Gen-Y is changing the future of business continues to be a growing discussion around the country. Gen X employers are already beginning to feel this shift in the workforce, many understanding that to stay competitive in this new environment they must adapt their philosophies or risk being left behind in the change.

Staying competitive in today’s marketplace means attracting Gen-Y’s top candidates, something that can be challenging to many organizations. The first step requires an employer to gain a greater understanding of Gen-Y’s expectations and a willingness to stray from the norms that have become commonplace in their organization. Though there are many areas to consider when looking to attract Gen-Y’s best and brightest, below are 3 suggestions that are worth some time and consideration.


Gone are the days where the steady 9 to 5 job with two weeks vacation will entice the prospective employees. Gen-Y demands flexibility in their careers. Work / life balance is more than just a pipe dream, and for most it’s a reality worth fighting tooth and nail to obtain. The separation between work and life is blurred as Gen Y seeks flexibility and variation in the workplace. In the past two years, the number of U.S. employees working remotely at least one day per month increased 39 percent, from 12.4 million in 2006 to 17.2 million in 2008, according to WorldatWork. “They want the freedom and flexibility of a virtual office, but they want rules and responsibilities to be spelled out explicitly,” says Ron Alsop, author of The Trophy Kids Grow Up: How the Millennial Generation Is Shaking Up the Workplace.

If an employer leaves no room for compromise, Gen-Y has no problem packing up and searching for a position that will fill this desire. Regardless, don’t be fooled. They are obsessed with productivity and have no problem working longer hours as long as it fits into their schedule.

Recommendation: When looking to hire strong candidates, consider flexible hours or provide choice in the role. Though the end goal will be the same, how, when, and where they go about completing a task, it is more important and more motivating to the Gen-Y employee. In most cases they will look to shape their jobs to fit their lives rather than adapt their lives to fit the workplace.

More Feedback

This generation also demands additional attention and guidance from employers. Growing up and an environment of constant feedback and praise, Gen-Y thrives when working in an environment where there is an open flow of communication. “Millennials have been given very high doses of feedback since age 4, and they need that feedback to know they’re on the right track,” says Bea Fields of Fast Company. As technology has integrated itself into nearly every facet of their lives, it has created a need for immediacy that is absent in Gen X and even moreso in Boomers. When it comes to an evaluation, an annual or even semiannual evaluation isn’t enough. They want to know how they’re doing weekly, even daily if it’s possible.

Recommendation: Consider creating a mentoring program if you don’t have one, or at the very least, introduce them to people early on that they can turn to when they feel the need for advice or someone to bounce ideas off of. When it comes to feedback and recognition stick to the rule that each employee should be individually recognized or told how they are doing at least once every seven days. Even a simple, “You’re doing a great job.” will improve moral and encourage increased productivity.

Creating Value

To truly get the most out their Gen-Y employees, employers need to look beyond just the traditional paycheck. Though salary and benefits continue to be number 1 and 2 respectively on the list of importance, the opportunity for growth and advancement rank a close 3rd. Gen-Y needs to be shown how their work makes a difference and why it’s of value to the company. They have much to offer in the workplace combining strengths such as teamwork, technology skills, social networking and multitasking skills.

Recommendation: If you can provide and communicate a strong plan for development AND advancement, you will be well on your way to retaining your top Gen-Y employees. Competitive wages are important and retention will be influenced by the level of “opportunity” your company provides. If you make any promises in this area, be sure you’re willing and able to live up to them. It’s a key driver of the Gen-Y work ethic.

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  • Jim Carter

    Interesting article that must have been written long before the current spate of layoffs and closings. Gen-Y workers are currently facing more competition for fewer jobs which means employers need not cater to their whims as they once had to.

    Gen-Y is beginning to realize that companies employ them to make a profit, not to provide them a career path. The days of occupational entitlement are suspended for a period if not over for a long while.

    Articles such as Mr. Portuesi’s seem almost archaic given today’s economic situation. Are we sure this isn’t a reprint from 2005?

  • Scott

    I’m a generation Y. This economy hasn’t changed one thing. All we have to do is ride out the bad times and then shop again, leaving behind the companies who decided to renig on our employment/compensation relationship. Many of these posts obviously havn’t gotten the point.

    401K is extremely important. By the time we retire social security will only be able to pay out 70% of what we are ENTITLED TO by the Taxes we paid. I personally am disgusted with the cuts made by companies to 401k contributions. I will leave the company out of the lack of loyalty they showed me when the time is right, and get better 401K matches.

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  • AJ

    I am a member of Generation Y and this article is EXACTLY on target. Before reading articles and taking trainings about generational differences, I thought these needs and preferences were part of my unique make-up. I had no idea that these things I felt were uniquely me were, in fact, typical attributes, motivators, and desires of a 76-million person club!

    I will admit that many of these characteristics tend to be more biased toward those raised in the middle or upper-middle class.

    Someone suggested that the tough economic times means that we Y-ers need to shape up and essentially stop acting so spoiled. While there may be some truth to the fact that we are probably going to have to do more adjusting than we care to do, I think you are missing the entire point. The point is for you to understand how we function at our peak, what makes us tick, and what kind of environment brings about our greatest levels of productivity. Simply put, those things are different than for any other generation. And, you ought to know that so that your company benefits as much as it possible can.

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