Coping with Generation Y workers

Generation Y workers are often stereotyped as self-involved technophiles with no attention span and poor people skills, but they’re also not going anywhere. How can managers, and businesses, adapt to the next generation of workers?

Coping with Generation Y workers

A recent study published by Ashridge Business School in the UK found that Generation Y workers and their managers often misunderstand each other, because they see the world through ‘different lenses.’ “Both managers and graduates need to be aware that they may be focused too much on their own view of the future and need to understand how they are perceived, define common goals and work together,” the report concluded.

The study examined recent graduates and their managers in the UK, Middle East, India, Malaysia, and China. An online survey, which was entirely multiple choice, and interviews were conducted between October 2011 and August 2012. Almost 3,000 (including 1,106 managers and 1,789 graduates) responded to the survey and 96 people (half recent graduates and half managers) took part in the interviews.

The key topics that the researchers investigated were: work expectations; work experience; national and corporate culture; and work attitudes and behaviour.

Researchers found that while graduates believe that they need to develop their technical skills, managers believe that their people skills are lacking. Consequently, managers and employers need to consider how they can coach young people into acquiring the people skills that they perceive to be necessary for leadership. 

However, while organisations need to support Gen Y workers in gaining these skills, graduates need to review their intention of changing jobs frequently, according to the study. The research found that graduates tend to want to move to a new company after only two years.

The study also suggests that recruiters need to consider a potential employee’s fit with the corporate culture when hiring, but that the organisation should also be flexible in reviewing this. “Loyalty to organisations has been replaced by loyalty to brands and to personal contacts or ‘friends’ gained through social media,” the authors said.

The study also revealed that work/life balance is becoming increasingly important for all workers. “Gen Y dos not want to end up as the burnt-out senior managers they see today,” according to the researchers. It is, as a result, essential to consider different work models.

Some key points for managers included in the report:


  • Consider corporate culture and work ethic when hiring new recruits.
  • Act early to establish boundaries for behaviour and expectations, and to develop missing skills.
  • Provide quality coaching and mentoring that really works
  • Try to give Gen Y workers challenging work, while giving them adequate support. “Mix boring tasks with more interesting ones, but explain the need for the boring activities”
  • Provide public appreciation for excellent work by Gen Y
  • Reach out to universities/schools/clubs to help young people understand and be prepared for the world of work
  • Have a hard look at your own behaviour and prejudices and produce an action plan
  • Don’t focus exclusively on one generation. Conduct a strategic review for how best to adapt the organisation for a multigenerational, multi-cultural workforce in an age of rapid change and changing attitudes to work.




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