Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Analyzing the Gen-Y Worker

There have been tons of studies in magazines, newspapers, and Websites trying to analyze the true nature of the Generation-Y worker, which, according to Wikipedia, characterizes those born between about 1980 and 1994. Many say they're arrogant, others claim unprofessional, and others still report that many hang on to their parents for dear life, scared to get out into the "real world". Is this all true? U.S. advertising agency JWT set out to find out by surveying 1,250 Americans, 238 of which fell into the 21-29-year-old age group.

What JWT found was that some claims are indeed true. For instance, Generation-Y employees do like to "play" at work, engaging in activities like video games, and just plain joking around. Is this such a bad thing? If you ask me, a lightened up office environment can help foster more productivity than an uptight one any day! It was also revealed that millennials, as JWT calls them, pay more attention to the work-life balance than their older colleagues. "They want to schedule work around the rest of their life, not vice versa," said the study. Finally, according to JWT, millennials do in fact want their employers to adapt to them rather than the other way around. Interestingly, however, those in the 50-something age category weren't far behind, with 51% of them agreeing to this sentiment as well versus 46% of millennials.

Although these perceptions were deemed true by JWT's study, a few others were squashed as just myths. For example, although the perception is that many Gen-Y kids return to live with their parents after school is over, in actuality, only 15% of them do. In fact, 25% live with a spouse and children, and 18% and 19%, respectively, with either a spouse or "partner". Do Gen-Y workers feel like they should be able to wear whatever they want to the office? Not quite. JWT's study found that 67% believe that formal appearances are important, which was higher than any other age group! Forty-somethings ranked attire the lowest, with just 54% saying that dressing up is required.

One of the most interesting findings was that, despite popular belief, millennials rank employer loyalty high on their moral scales. Sixty-six per cent agreed that an employee owes loyalty to his employer, versus just 60% of 30-somethings, 67% of 40-somethings, and 72% of 50-plus. Another popular belief is that the young 'ens are just downright disrespectful to corporate America, and want to do things their way. Not so much. JWT found that 42% of Gen-Y workers have a high degree of respect for corporate America; compared to 36% of 30-somethings, 31% of 40-somethings, and 32% of those 50 and up.

Despite the rumours that may be squashed by this study, there's still no denying that there is a significant generational difference between Gen-Y (and even Gen-Xers!) and the older generation. The youngest workers of the lot can't imagine a world where a picture you just snapped doesn't instantly appear on an LCD screen for review, or when you couldn't "Google" something you needed an answer to right away. Likewise, the older generation doesn't understand the unjustifiable perceived sense of entitlement or increased focus on technology. Either way, based on the results of this study, it appears that there's plenty that every generation can learn from one another.

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