Gen Ys’ Perspectives on the Workplace

Image: Gen Ys’ Perspectives on the Workplace

How Gen Ys Feel About Work

Each generation has different perspectives on the workplace. Members of one cohort may have difficulty understanding the perspectives of other generations which can cause conflict in a work environment. For example, a Baby Boomer manager may consider the perspectives and actions of his or her Gen Y employees to be disrespectful, rude or unprofessional. Gen Ys, however, may not intend to be rude or insulting, but rather  take a different view as to what is considered acceptable at work.

Gen Ys Want a Fluid Work Style

One of the things that Gen Ys do significantly more than Gen Xers and Baby Boomers did is conduct a cost-benefit analysis of what it means to work at an organization. The costs to Gen Ys are often significantly different than they were for previous generations. Gen Ys place a higher value on a work-life balance and desired certain aspects of a job (such as team involvement and project rotations) more than other generations do.

Fluidity in a workday and the ability to control ones workday are important to Gen Ys. This generations has grown up in a world where nothing has been rigid. Rather than expecting eight hours of work, eight hours of play and eight hours of sleep, Gen Ys are accustomed to having all aspects of their lives intermingled. Advances in technology have allowed for this type of lifestyle to exist.  From the introduction of ATMs, cell phones and the internet, our world shifted to one in which everyone can access what they want, when they want it.  Gen Ys have never known a world that didn’t allow for this high level of fluidity.

When they come into a workplace where there are more structured hours, there is often a struggle for Gen Ys to understand and/or feel the need to adhere to the structure. For example, Gen Ys don’t understand why they can’t leave early on Friday and make-up their work hours at another time that suits them better.

Gen Ys Want Work That Has Meaning

In addition to a fluid work style, Gen Y want to create a life and to do work that has meaning to them. They want to understand the impact of the work that they do and the influence they are having on the team, department and organization they are part of. This can lead to situations where Gen Ys don’t want to do work that they consider “routine”, because they don’t place value or meaning to those tasks. They would rather do work that interests them and is more engaging and fun.

Fortunately, organizations can address Gen Ys’ desire for meaningful work in the recruitment phase. From the first touch point, it is important for an organization explain how the role  they will be in  provides meaning to the organization and to the broader community.  Gen Ys have a strong sense of corporate social responsibility and want to ensure they are working for an organization that contributes positively to the local / national / global environment in which they work.  By making a direct link between the work Gen Ys will do and the big picture impact they will have, you will be able to engage and motivate Gen Ys longer.

How Organizations, Managers & HR Leaders Can Help

There are a several ways that organizations, HR leaders and individual managers can help reduce conflict between Gen Ys’ expectations and the workplace reality.  In situations where a Gen Y’s perspectives of work don’t align with the perspectives of the organization, it is important that HR leaders and managers take the following action:

  • Ensure  the meaning of all projects and tasks are reinforced – from routine tasks to special projects
  • Provide clarity on how much flexibility is possible in a day/week/month/year
  • Ensure challenging work assignments and accountability are provided early in Gen Ys career (first 6 months)
  • Solicit feedback and opinions from Gen Ys on their  preferred management style
  • Manage expectations by communicate what the organization can and cannot do to meet expectations

Giselle Kovary

As president and co-founder of n-gen People Performance Inc., Giselle is dedicated to building strategies and programs that help clients target, motivate and engage employees in order to increase performance and productivity. She is a sought after resource to industry leaders, having worked with 18 of the top Fortune 500 companies across North America. Over 60,000 people globally have experienced an n-gen workshop or presentation. With close to 20 years of experience in learning and development, she has devoted more than 13 years to researching the impact that generational differences have on organizational performance.

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