By Aaron Dodd, Operations Director at the Mindset Group.
Much has been written of late about the “personality” of so-called Generation Y. They are a much maligned generation. My generation (X) seems to see them as disloyal, lacking in perseverance, short attention spans, seeking instant gratification etc. From an HR perspective there has been much written about how to attract, motivate and retain them in the workforce. Before the GFC these articles were everywhere. We see them less now, but the perceived issue will return as Western economies recover.
I sit on my son’s High School curriculum committee as a parent representative. There are student representatives also on the committee. The young adults I have met there are well-spoken, hard-working and have a strong moral sense to them. They show respect to their teachers and peers alike. Clearly many of the negative comments about Generation Y as a whole are stereotypes. However like many stereotypes, there is a grain of truth to them.
It is true that Generation Y tend not to have the ingrained company loyalty that my generation have. They are more forthright and blunt in their statements if they disagree with a policy or management decision. Generation Y is also much more likely to make an employment decision (or unemployment decision) based on environmental concerns or fit with organisational culture. In short if they don’t like how they or their peers are treated or the way their employer treats their community or the environment they will leave.
Many Generation Y do not suffer from affluenza the way my generation does. They are not motivated by the big McMansions, the European car in the drive and the overseas holidays. As many of my Generation X friends, peers and colleagues mid-life crises can attest, money doesn’t make you happy.
I argue that perhaps it’s we who are wrong? Misguided loyalty means many of us have worked for years for long hours for poor pay in crappy conditions on the promise that one day we’ll get that promotion and that the company will always look after us. This is a notion that must be cast away. The fact that Generation Ys have the confidence to look us in the eye and say “No I’m not putting up with this” is the correct attitude. Generation Y’s focus on the environment; in fact their focus on fixing the mess that my generation’s afflueza created is laudable.
So as employers, before we write off Generation Y, perhaps we should take a long hard look at our values, how we treat our employees and the effect that our businesses and lifestyles have on those around us. All of us will probably be found wanting in some areas. One thing is for sure, Generation Y may not have our lifestyle, but they and their families and communities will likely be richer for it.