What Does Y Want?
The same as you, evidently. This desperately in-demand, seemingly unmanageable generation of employees just has different ways of going about it. And befuddled employers would do well to wise up
by Malwina Gudowska
You think twitter means to move around nervously. To you, tweets are sounds made by birds. Unless you are a doctor or nurse, you would never intentionally poke someone. You don’t make it a habit to browse through photos of people you have never met. Instead of posting your diary online and calling it a blog, you kept yours locked and under the bed. You have never played tennis in your living room.
You are probably not part of generation Y. Significantly larger than the preceding generation X, gen-Y’s members are born in 1980 and later (some sources cite as early as 1977, some as late as 1982). They’re the people now in their 20s, filling entry-level jobs and moving rapidly (courtesy of our labour shortage) onto the career track. Human resource managers tend to reduce them to a laundry list of attributes that includes fickle, anti-authoritarian, possessing a sense of entitlement, having a lack of loyalty and a poor work ethic – not exactly stellar traits. This nonetheless tech-savvy and multi-tasking cohort is widely believed to be fundamentally different from previous generations in its attitude towards careers and behaviour in the workplace. Much more prone to ask for what they want, the “millennials” (another common moniker) are often seen as demanding respect for what they’ve already accomplished – even if it’s not much – while having the luxury of walking away from a job knowing there are five more waiting.
All this talk of generation Y isn’t just the latest trend topic. Alberta’s labour shortage, another ubiquitous talking point these days, has created a sense of panic among employers. By 2010, the number of Albertans aged 45 and up is expected to grow twice as fast as those under 45. The Government of Alberta estimates a shortfall of 111,000 workers by 2017. Over the next 10 years, as the baby boomers (born between 1945 and 1964, the largest demographic bulge in Canada today) settle into their 60s, more than 140,000 workers are expected to retire. The mass exodus from the labour force is increasingly frightening to companies big and small across not just Alberta but also North America. The only natural progression they have to look forward to is filling empty office chairs and work boots with these supposedly spoiled, coddled, lazy kids.
“Many organizations fail to understand the serious staff shortages they will face in the coming years,” says David Aplin, CEO of Edmonton-based David Aplin Recruiting. “Companies must understand gen-Y employees and their similarities and differences or their organizations will be at risk.”
David Aplin Recruiting considers the problem sufficiently pressing that this year it conducted a survey of nearly 3,000 generation Y and X employees across Canada, asking respondents to prioritize what they look for in a job and in an employer. As a point of comparison, the company also surveyed 1,000 human resources managers on how they were responding to gen-Y’s demands. The results laid bare a fundamental disconnect between what employees say they want and what employers are offering and contradicted much of the conventional wisdom held by employers, that the way to appeal to gen-Y is casual Friday every day and a foosball table in the common area. The survey revealed that generation Y mostly wants the same things previous generations wanted (and still want): career advancement, performance-based pay with salary increases and excellent benefits. The top three issues of importance for Canadian workers – time for family and friends, health and wellness and fun, enjoyment of life and work – were consistent among the respondents with little generational or regional variation.
According to the survey, a casual dress code and corporate support of local charities are the two most common incentives Canadian companies are offering to attract and retain employees. But not one of the generations surveyed (baby boomers, generation X and generation Y) listed these incentives among their top 10 inducements. “The problem with generation Y, people tend to look at how different they are,” says Aplin. “Yes, there are some differences without a question but most of their values and what they want line up pretty well with the other cohorts, the gen-X and the boomers.”
So where do all of these generalizations come from? Is generation Y really misunderstood? Or is it that all of the other generations are just a tad jealous they didn’t have the means to get what they wanted out of their employers without the fear of losing their jobs?
“What rising generation didn’t hate the previous generation?” asked Jack Shafer in an article for daily general-interest web magazine Slate.com, back in 2005 when generation Y’s uneasy entry into the workplace was already a hot topic. Shafer criticized a USA Today article for feeding into the never-ending generalizations being made about today’s young adults and argued that the same traits could be used to describe any generation at the same age. “If they’re all smart and brash, they’re the first generation in human history to defy the bell curve and realize such uniformity,” he wrote, adding that the USA Today article, with a few minor changes, could be recycled in 2025 when describing the next generation (which may require an entirely new alphabet).Pages: 1 2 3 4