Generation Y. 'It's all about me.' Photo: iStock
A special mindset
Born between 1978 and 1994, generation Y make up 4.2 million of the Australian population. Also described as “Generation Why”, “Millennials” and “Echo Boomers”, they are the babies of the baby boomers and range in age from 13 to 29. A large number of them are also the result of planned pregnancies. With older first-time parents, they grew up in smaller families, enjoying greater affluence and more one-on-one with Mum and Dad — all of which, says social demographer Dr Rebecca Huntley in her book, The World According to Y, has made them feel very special.
When you grow up knowing you’re special, you think in a particular way — about yourself and your place in the world. Generation Y isn’t just a demographic — it’s a mindset with its own views about work. Its members want their work to have flexibility, they want the opportunity to do something that makes a difference, and they don’t much care about organisational loyalty.
Essentially they want a life, and if their job encroaches on this they will, as Sheahan puts it, “talk with their feet”. For employers, managing generation Y is about knowing how best to manage their work-versus-life priorities.
A recent survey by Hays Specialist Recruitment found 43% of employers consider staff retention as the biggest challenge they face today. Just 2% of generation Yers view a career as a job for life and most anticipate staying with an employer for two to four years at most. This is compounded by a skill shortage. Yet at the same time, thanks to industrial relations changes, Australian employers enjoy greater flexibility and capacity to hire and fire and restructure then ever before.
For Huntley, generation Y’s attitude towards their work is simply a realistic response to the current business climate, and their bosses’ shock over this attitude is out of whack. “What’s odd is that managers and leaders in corporate Australia have created a modern workplace, but they anticipate that young workers will have a kind of 1950s sense of loyalty to their employer.”
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