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Gen Y: We’re not as scary as we look


Rhiannon Sawyer, associate editor

HR

By Rhiannon Sawyer

Don’t be too quick to dismiss Gen Y workers as being not up to the job. You’re likely to see more innovation and creativity from them than any other employee.

The problem with stereotypes is that they tend to be based on a few poor examples. Sam Kekovich, Crocodile Dundee and Steve Irwin are not the best representations of all Australians, yet they get the most international recognition, and therefore the BBQ eating, crocodile wrestling idea of Australians is perpetuated around the world.

The same goes with Gen Y. You hear about a few people in their twenties living at home with their parents and jumping from job to job and you assume it means that Gen Ys are lazy, demanding and unable to commit to anything. This couldn’t be further from the truth.

Full disclosure, I am technically Gen Y. Even though I don’t believe in the easy classification of generations, I will admit to falling within the birth years that classify this generation. For me and my fellow Y-ers, the stereotypes that are daily discussed in the media with such casual neglect for how insulted some might feel, are beginning to grate.

For starters, how did the idea that Gen Y-ers being commitment-phobic ever stand up? When it comes to big life commitments, I’m instead seeing a growing trend of people similar in age to myself getting married and settling down. People are buying houses. If a mortgage and a ring isn’t commitment enough for you, what is?

When it comes to the workplace, Gen Y-ers have plenty to offer. Due to us being promised the world throughout our education years, we are ambitious. If we have changed jobs recently it’s because we needed to move up in the world, beyond the scope of what was promised in our previous positions. We also were the generation that were first employed during the height of the GFC and so many of us felt the brunt of first in, first out. If ambition is something you’re not looking for in your employees, you’re not looking to move forward.

Gen Y-ers do tend to be more tech savvy – this is a more accurate stereotype for my age group. This can only be a help to your business, with younger workers seeing through the dusty systems you currently have in place and being able to implement more creative ways to reach your customers. They are familiar with social media. They are internet literate. They tend to be brilliant multi-taskers. If you’re not, you need a Gen Y in your workplace.

Gen Ys also came through an education system that encouraged critical thinking, rather than rote learning. They’re also more likely to have gone to university, with the HECS scheme making university somewhat more accessible, and the need to find work immediately after school less important in our affluent society. They are, as a result, more creative. They can look at a problem from all angles and come up with multiple solutions because they have been taught never to judge a book by its cover. This attribute can only be something to be encouraged in the workplace.

The notion that Gen Ys are disrespectful to authority is highly inaccurate. Gen Ys acknowledge that there are people who have paved the way before them and these people demand respect, but many find themselves in workplaces which are slow to adapt to the times, and they are the ones that will question rigid hierarchies which make innovation and advancement impossible. Let them speak. This is how you can innovate.

Don’t question the loyalty, dedication and attitude of a Gen Y worker. If you wish to see your business advance, employing Gen Ys is the best move you can make.

From the Gen Y editor of this website.

    • Added by Amy

      I believe we are seeing these stereotypes because of trends (hence the stereotypes) and studies that have been researched globally. As with all stereotypes, we see exceptions. However, Gen Y has been programed with a set of values that organizations are having a hard time adjusting to. A generation ago, young workers were told to suck it up and do as they are told. I’m not entirely sure Gen X’s passions and dreams of the ideal workplace were much different from ours. These days we are seeing companies start to comply with the desires and expectations of Gen Y because we are so vast in numbers. If organizations don’t learn to attract and retain Gen Y, soon they won’t have any workers. Sometimes companies have to change their entire culture to accommodate the demands of Gen Y. It is a very interesting dynamic. Here is a link to the Workplace Readiness Assessment that I found helpful. I would be interested in seeing how you score, Rhiannon. Thanks for the article. http://www.redtreeleadership.com/millennials/MillennialResearch.html