Generation Y

Generation who?

Also known as ‘Millennials’, Generation Y (Gen Y for short) are those born between the early-80s and 2000. Together this group forms the next wave of employees entering the workplace and will define how businesses will operate for the next 40 – 50 years.

Companies looking to stay ahead and attract the brightest employees need to be aware of how the new wave approach work. What technologies do they consider essential? What is their preferred way of working? What leadership styles do they respond to? Surveying the available research into Generation Y’s work attitudes, and the opinions of those who employ them, reveals a workforce which expects certain working arrangements and technologies as standard.

Working together

Collaboration is a key method for achieving success. Generation Y have grown up in an environment where instant messaging and social networks mean people communicate instantly. Asking questions and resolving situations in less time than it would take to organise a face-to-face meeting to discuss the same issues.

The challenge for employers is to recreate Gen Y’s preferred social and instant messaging approach in a secure business-orientated way. Several platforms exist to provide these services and the choice between them comes down to which integrates best with the company’s existing infrastructure.

For example, most businesses use Microsoft Exchange for their email, contact and diary management. Microsoft Lync is an add-on service which provides instant messaging and web conferencing. All conversations are stored in the employee’s Exchange mailbox; providing both an easy way to find past conversations and for employers to monitor communications.

Working anywhere

Millennial Branding found 45% of Gen Y employees place workplace flexibility above pay when choosing an employer.

Work shouldn’t be limited to a brick building on a business park. Instead Gen Y feel working environments should be flexible, with the option to base themselves wherever they can be most productive at any given moment.

Take the example of a field sales rep. The traditional sales rep would wait till they were back in the office before updating sales quotes. A Gen Y sales rep would assume they can access office documents from a tablet, or laptop, and update the quote instantly. Saving time and shortening the sales pipeline.

Migrating existing storage and communication infrastructure to cloud-based systems will give employees the work anywhere freedom they demand. Hosted email is already common place in business, with information synced across desktop, webmail and mobile devices, and cloud-based storage services are starting to become more prevalent in business environments. With office-bound network or local storage, replaced by a shared data pool accessed via the internet.

Results come first

Working from any location, and constant collaboration, are not just excuses for new employees to sit chatting with colleagues or avoid coming into the office. Tied in with another key Gen Y expectation, they deliver focused performance and measurable outcomes.

The new workplace environment places results at the heart of operations. This can be achieving sales targets, maintaining KPIs for customer contact, or any other measurement of business performance.

The intention is to separate results from processes, allowing employees to choose the most appropriate methods of working to achieve the right outcome. If results are not met, Gen Y employees expect to change their working patterns, or increase working hours, to correct the situation.

Constant appraisals

The final part of building a Gen Y-ready workplace is changing how employees are appraised. The traditional monthly, quarterly and annual appraisals are considered out-dated by new employees. Instead constant feedback is expected.

This is not to say these workers expects constant praise. It is about providing a regular stream of feedback to which the employee can respond by altering behaviour patterns and working practices to match expectations.  By taking a constant appraisal approach companies avoid a build-up of small issues turning into a big issue by the time a quarterly appraisal comes along.


Making organisational structures more Gen Y ‘friendly’ isn’t a case of pandering to their demands. It’s a way of attracting the best new employees as they enter the market and taking the opportunity to improve existing working practices to increase efficiency.

Over the next 10 years, Generation Y will form the majority of workers in an organisation, but a PWC study showed most businesses haven’t yet adapted their working patterns to attract this next generation of employees.

This gives an opportunity for forward-thinking businesses to promote Gen Y friendly practices and attract more of the brightest new employees in the job market.