Gen Y & Baby Boomers – a primer

Generation Y has many references. Generation We. Global Generation. The Millennial Generation (or Millenials). Generation Next. The Net Generation. Or, the Echo Boomers. It is difficult to ascertain exactly and precisely when Generation Y starts and ends, but managers and hirers usually agree on beginning birth dates of early 1980s and later, as members of this gen. Popularly and in many ways yet maintaining continuity, they really are a demographic cohort, following Gen X.

Echo Boomers are termed so, because of the significant increase in birth rates through the 80s decade and into the 90s. Also, many of them are children of baby boomers. Region, social and economic conditions determine the characteristics of this generation but it is largely impacted by an increased use and familiarity with communications, media, and digital technologies. This generation’s outlook towards politics and economics, hinges on being neoliberal.

It is a matter of not just academic interest, but also from a hiring perspective, to study behavioral patterns in Gen Y and the difference from their Baby Boomer forefathers. Among many other things, millennials (those in their 20s and early 30s) want flexible work schedules, and a pressing need for “me time” on the job. A feedback loop, where they can seek career advice from managers. Relationship with reporting managers is not hierarchical. They’re also more inclined to believe that bosses could learn a thing or two from their young employees. Oh, and they really prefer to be able to dress up casually and comfortably to work. The youth of today have very strong opinions about the workplace—how it should be run, and what their place should be in it.

In most parts of the world, it has already been evidenced that Gen Y will reshape the workplace—sooner than later, if they have their way. A generation, which has come of age with the text message and social media, are an impatient bunch: They’re hyper-connected, tech savvy, entrepreneurial, and collaborative. They are biased towards fast-paced work environments, want quick promotions, and don’t have much liking for traditional office rules and hierarchies.

Need for immediate attention. Millennials grew up texting, using Facebook and Twitter. They’re grown accustomed to instantaneous connection and nearly immediate responses each time they Tweet or post. This online behaviour finds reflection in off-line too. In the workplace, they expect the environment be just as responsive. They want to be able to ask questions and get career advice all the time. From a sociological standpoint, parents were more like mentors to them and now they expect managers to be on the same mould. For the most part, millennials aren’t fans of having to wait six months or a year to get a formal review of their work. Boomers, on the other hand, are more likely to prefer a structured system where feedback is given at certain times of the year. Instead of seeking constant feedback, boomers prefer to take the “give me my objectives and get out of my way” approach.

Millennials want casual Fridays almost every day. Millennials have a preference for casual dressing but Boomers, on the other hand, are more prone to believing in the importance of maintaining a standard professional look in the workplace. The Millennials’ preference for casual attire finds credence in the fact that they don’t separate their personal and professional lives in the same way that baby boomers do.

Millennials work when they want to work. The 9-to-5 workday is fading as the standard, and the change is (at least partially) being driven by millennials. Studies indicate that millennials think they should be allowed to decide on their own hours at work. Whereas more boomers feel the office environment and the traditional workday is the best way to get the job done. Millennials prefer a flexible approach, including the right to “work from home” and the need to go to office only when there is a need to. Perhaps never. They maintain that as long as the work gets done, the amount of time spent in the office shouldn’t matter.

Millennials aren’t all about the money. Gen Y aren’t inclined at all to take up jobs they hate and sometimes even go to the extremes of remaining unemployed. Among the top options for job desirability, “loving what I do” outranked salaries and big bonuses. If it is not money, then what do millennials want most? “looking for a job where my creativity is valued, “motivated to work harder when I know where my work is going” and want supervisors, managers, and executives to listen to their ideas. “Millennials thrive in an environment where they have the freedom to walk into the CEO’s office to tell them how to fix things.” Generally speaking, millennials want to feel as though they’ve been heard, and that their opinions and insights matter.

They sure want to work, but don’t want work to be their life. Clear thinking, crisp communication and a certain restlessness is what defines their traits. They know what they want, want it quick enough and are willing to explore any routes possible, even those leading to short-cuts. Its a stimulating job environment that brings about their loyalty and not the employer per se. This is a constant challenge for employers. High performance and high maintenance go hand-in-hand and need balancing.

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