Generation Y The Future of Work | DMA

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Generation Y The Future of Work


63% of business decision makers and 68% of recruiters admit they find it difficult to manage Gen Y (source Harvard Business Review). Combined with other people challenges such as recruitment, retention and stress, it is perhaps time to to find a better way to work together. Generation Y is inviting us to do this. When we understand their needs, it will create an inspiring workplace for all of us, regardless of age.

There are 5 key work needs, which Generation Y has:

1) They are Skill Seekers. Gen Y is ambitious, but the harsh reality is that there has never been a tougher time to enter the workplace; student debts and no pension promise for a glorious retirement. To realise their ambition they need to acquire skills. The trouble is that often, they don’t know exactly what those skills are, and companies need to help them do this, defining expectations, giving them regular feedback and praise. A PWC study found 41% of Gen Y prefer to be rewarded or recognised for their work at least monthly, if not more frequently, whereas only 30% of non-Gen Y’s would like that level of frequency.

2) They want Productive Experiences, first identified by Lynda Gratton, a Professor at London Business School. For Gen Y, ‘experiences’ are critical, in part because they know they will not have the wealth of previous generations. A successful life is one full of productive experiences; time in marketing, perhaps a stint in New York, then all change to become a micro entrepreneur, interspersed with periods of travelling and volunteering. The linear career is dead. Money and status mean less to them than previous generations; instead they need flexibility and options.

3) To be Short Term Sensations. The ambition and need for productive experiences means they want to be sensational quickly. Rather than putting hurdles in their way we need to consider how we can make them sensational in the short term. If we can help them do this, there is a greater chance that they will stay longer.

4) To be Society Contributors. Whilst they may be known as the “selfie generation”, they want to contribute positively towards society. They expect the companies they work for to do so too. They are redefining what a successful company is and the kind of companies they want to work for; a recent poll shows that 50% of Gen Y want to work for a business with ethical practices. The culture of the company is important to them; they want to be part of something, which fits with their values. We need to help them work out why they should care about working here.

5) To be Collaborative Connectors. As digital natives they operate in a hierarchy free world. However, they can step on toes in their haste to get the job done with a disregard for hierarchy. They need to grasp that this is not collaboration, and will not be a helpful long-term career strategy. Equally, the future of work is through increasing collaboration to drive truly innovative solutions. Gen Y is hard wired to do this. Businesses need to consider how to remove the barriers to facilitate and benefit from their strength.

Generation Y are the future of work. We need to understand their needs and what it means for how we attract, develop and retain people at work. If we can satisfy their needs Gen Y have the potential to be one of the hardest working and collaborative workforces ever.

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