Generation Y the least engaged

Aug 11 2008 by Brian Amble Print This Article

The knives are out again for Generation Y as a new survey finds that in almost all parts of the world except India, employees born since 1980 are the least engaged members of the workplace.

A report by Princeton-based consultants BlessingWhite suggests that at least a quarter of Generation Y employees are disengaged across the globe, with the problem at its most acute in Southeast Asia, where around the figure rises to around a third.

The consistent message to emerge from the report, which surveyed more than 7,500 individuals and interviewed 40 senior human resource and line managers, is that the more senior the employees, the more engaged they are.

"Around the globe, senior executives are generally more engaged than frontline managers or individual contributors," said BlessingWhite CEO, Christopher Rice.

So are Gen Y employees really a bunch of demanding, greedy and unmotivated slackers - or is the reality more complex?

"Gen Y disengagement levels may reflect, to some extent, their low seniority since more baby boomers would predictably hold leadership roles," Rice said. "Increased engagement is an expected outcome from power and position."

Another contributing factor is that younger employees often do not have a clear picture of what will make them happy, said Rice.

"Often, they can't find what they're looking for because they don't have the experience to know what they want. Lack of personal clarity can also influence engagement for Gen Y, in particular."

The sole exception to a general picture of disengagement among Gen Y employees is India, where all generations Ė including younger employees - have higher levels of engagement compared to other regions, possibly as a result of its young, fast-paced, knowledge-based economy.

"Engaged employees are not just committed or passionate or proud," said Rice. "They're enthusiastic and in gear, using their talents to make a difference in their employer's quest for sustainable success. As a rule, increased engagement results in increased productivity and performance. It's a key business issue leaders need to address, particularly in times of economic downturn and uncertainty."

Conversely, disengaged employees often feel underutilized, are the most disconnected from the organization's strategy and may indulge in contagious negativity.

"Left to themselves, disengaged workers are likely to look for their next job, or worse collect a paycheck while complaining and not producing. If they can't be coached or encouraged to higher levels of engagement, their exit benefits everyone, including themselves," Rice concluded.