Gen Y happy to knuckle down

Dec 08 2008 by Nic Paton Print This Article

The idea that the up-and-coming generation of employees are all spoilt slackers is simply not true, according to new research. But so-called "millennial" or Gen Y workers are keen to work abroad and will probe a company's ethical and corporate image before deciding whether a job is for them.

A study of 4,200 graduates from 44 countries who all started work after 2000 has found that while a company's corporate and ethical reputation is important when it comes to deciding whether to join, once in they are quite happy to knuckle down and work their way up the career ladder.

The PricewaterhouseCoopers study also argues that the notion that many young workers are disloyal and will reject traditional work practices is a myth.

In fact, millennial workers expect their working life to be predominantly office-based, to work regular office hours and to have a small number of future employers.

Where that office might be located, however, is another question entirely. In an increasingly globalised, wired working world, global mobility will be the norm for tomorrow's rising stars, with Indian graduates having the greatest appetite to jump on a plane to find work.

Even in the country at the bottom of the mobility list, the Netherlands, nearly two thirds of those polled said they would be happy to work abroad.

In the UK, just three per cent did not want to work outside their home country during their career, with more than eight out of 10 saying they would be prepared to do so and the rest undecided.

But despite this mobility, the research also highlights the continuing dominance of English as the language of business and commerce.

While just under four out of 10 of those polled said English was their first language, more their eight out of 10 said they expected to use it at work, with French and Spanish trailing way behind on 19 per cent and 14 per cent respectively.

Intriguingly, given the constant criticism that Gen Y workers demand work-life balance and flexible working, this was not a huge issue for the workers polled by PwC.

Just three per cent said they expected to work mainly at home and barely a fifth said they expected to work mainly outside regular office hours.

Three-quarters believed they would have just two to five employers in their lifetime, debunking another common criticism that millennial workers are disloyal job hoppers who, if things aren't "just right", will jump ship at the first opportunity.

But this loyalty will be sorely tested if the training and development that Gen Y demands is not forthcoming. Training emerged as the most highly valued benefit in the first five years of their career, with a third putting this as their first choice apart from salary.

And almost all respondents said that working with strong coaches and mentors was important to personal development.

"Most businesses only provide coaches and mentors to senior employees," said Michael Rendell, global head of human resource services at PwC.

"But providing this kind of one-to-one development to new graduates could help ease the sometimes bumpy transition from university to the workplace, while breeding goodwill and engagement at a relatively low cost."

Rendell added that the message from the research is that Gen Y wants much the same things from work as everyone else Ė so employers don't need to tear up their people strategies to manage this new generation.

What is new, however, is younger people's ability to mobilise into another job if their expectations and ideals are not met.

"To manage this difference, companies need to think creatively about reward strategies, using metrics and benchmarking to segment their workforce in a similar way to how many companies segment their customer base," Rendell said.

"We think CEOs are struggling with millennials because they need more information about what drives them, and because they need to adapt their traditional approaches to attracting and integrating employees.

"This means focusing on the things that millennials really want, such as training and development. Articulating employer brand and clearly stating corporate responsibility values will also be critical.

"The millennials' expectations bring opportunities as well as challenges - those organisations that adapt fastest will be best placed to succeed in good times and bad," he concluded.


Older Comments

Shock horror. Now perhaps you'll stop alienating your readers by perpetuating all this rubbish about us not being prepared to work hard, or being any more idealistic and possibly unrealistic at the start of our careers as any other generation has been. That young people entering the work market do not immediately settle into a corporate grind is hardly news.


Your assesment of young professionals is exactly correct. Gen Yers are not inherently disloyal, but look for an employer who can provide them with what they need to grow. Millennials have a thirst to learn about new cultures, and look to spread their horizons so that they can understand how to be successful in this globalized world.

Too often the media and companies associate a Millennial's desire to learn with acting entitled or wanting instant gratification. I would argue that young people just want to become engaged with the corporation, and managers should understand that in answering their questions they are actually creating stronger, more dedicated employees.

Brett Hummel