Generation Y is gradually taking over the world of work. What attitudes, wishes and motivations do the young professionals bring with them and how will they shape the working world in the future? We discuss how modern digitalization solutions can be used to create a working environment that turns young employees of Generation Y into long-term employees of your company.
Generation Y – new self-image, different demands
Anyone born between 1980 and 1995 belongs to the much described Generation Y. The term is generally used to refer to the proportion of this age group who can provide an academic background, the so-called high potentials.
Generation Y enjoys a special reputation among employers and older colleagues. They are regarded as very convinced of themselves, critical and extremely goal-oriented. As employees, they are challenging and demanding, with a strong focus on the work-life balance, which for them enjoys a higher priority than good pay. Considering the conditions under which the Y-generation grew up, there are three main factors that shape this picture:
Generation Y is a low-birth generation. Many of its representatives grew up as only children or with a maximum of two siblings in a sheltered environment. They received a lot of attention and care from their social environment. The parents invested a lot in their children’s education, but also set (and continue to do so) high expectations in them. The children were given a sense of their value and importance. This resulted in a healthy self-confidence, but also in high expectations regarding their own life, career and impact.
Security, consumption and individuality are further formative factors. Generation Y have not experienced many existential worries and problems. In a peaceful affluent society, their wishes were usually fulfilled quickly. When the primary needs are taken care of, the focus shifts to the immaterial. The search for meaning, the realisation of one’s own life plans, values such as friendship, family and individuality come to the fore.
- Digital communication
The representatives of this generation are digital natives. Smart phones, social media, digital technologies and unlimited access to information and media are a matter of course for this generation. For them, instant messaging and mobile devices are part of everyday life. Accordingly, they expect the same at their workplace. It should be as mobile and flexible as the rest of their lives. People who chat in real-time, choose their life partner digitally and, as a matter of course, do their shopping online or book travel when and how they please, do not want to be tied to a workplace with rigid working hours. The young professionals and employees bring a great deal of openness with them. Informal, non-hierarchical digital forms of communication characterise the communication habits of these young professionals. They are used to articulate, comment and criticise. Generation Y lives by the motto ‘work smart, but not hard’.
Work has high priority for Generation Y
For Generation Y, work has the same importance as family and friends and a higher significance than leisure. But it is the very nature of work that matters to this generation. Young people do not want to see it merely as a source of income, but also as an opportunity to express themselves. Interesting contents and a portion of self-determination are essential. For companies, this means that they should approach and promote their young talents differently than before. Generation Y prefers to deliver results rather than simply sitting out their hours at work – a fact that should make managers sit up and take notice. After all, companies are always concerned with performance and productivity, with ‘getting things done’.
Agility instead of the classic way of working
Agile methods, self-organising teams and interdisciplinary approaches that encourage the creativity of these young employees will in future be the guiding principle of self-determined work to permit them in developing their skills to the maximum.
Bottom-up approaches in change management, in which employees drive change at the grassroots level instead of being decreed ‘from above’, are one way of profitably integrating young talents. Expanding permanent self-optimization as an integral part of the corporate culture is the right step to successfully incorporate and retain Generation Y. In this way, potential can be recognised, developed and appreciation conveyed. All this contributes to long-term employee loyalty.
The cloud provides the required independence from time and place
Companies are operating on an increasingly global scale. This has an impact on the working environment. Work can be accomplished flexibly from anywhere and at any time. Tools for video telephony and office chats are only a fraction of the numerous possibilities for equipping employees. If they are supplemented by the appropriate hardware in the form of laptops, smartphones and the like, nothing stands in the way of efficient communication and collaboration, even across location boundaries. A ‘personal’ meeting is now possible at any time, no matter where – whether in the office, in a café, at home or at the airport.
Today, digitalization enables collaboration on cloud platforms independent from time and location. Young talents know this and demand a softening of the traditional, stationary way of working. Who wouldn’t? Cloud software has the advantage that flexible working hours and home office can be easily integrated into the business. These are working conditions that Generation Y appreciates.
The young people especially of Generation Y perceive working time as part of their lifetime. It is not a matter of weighing the two against each other or playing them off against each other. Young employees – and especially female employees – do not want to miss out on a happy family and private life. Founding a family is a high priority for young employees. Flexible working hours, locations and sabbaticals give both sides, employer and employee, the opportunity to successfully combine family and career.
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