Generation Y in the Workplace

September, 10, 2013 by Brooke McLaughlin author workhoppers

Generation Y, those born between approximately 1978 and 2000, currently number 76 million in the U.S workforce today(Financial Post) .By 2016 they will be 100 million strong(Genup). This group, also called the millennial generation, are stirring things up in the workforce. Generation Y are often thought of as lazy, unprofessional, and entitled; expecting to start as interns on Monday and be CEO by Friday. The reality is that they are the most educated generation in history with the most women participating in the workforce. They have grown up with computers, internet and other technologies and are extremely tech savvy and resourceful. (Globe and Mail).  For the Gen Y it is not about working less but more about working on their schedule. They do not accept the idea of working the same hours each day or working for the same company their whole lives. They want freedom to pursue different activities, hobbies and family obligations.

Generation YA recent study by Deloitte found that Generations Y’s personal development, appreciation and a sense of meaning are of utter importance to them. Workplace culture is highly valuable to them and they seek out environments where they can socially interact and work collaboratively. Generation Y has an entrepreneurial spirit and results of the Deloitte survey found that 69% would like to set up their own business.

Forward thinking employers need to be looking at innovative ways to meet their needs and ignoring these needs will expose them to high attrition rates and dissatisfied employees as suggested by the recent Deloitte research on Generation Y.

Indeed, companies’ structures today are out of sync with the lifestyle desires of Generation Y but they need to and are beginning to make major changes to accommodate and attract their unique work styles.

Some organizations have made these changes already.

Innovative work options such as ROWE, also know as “results only work environment”, are being seen. According to Alison Konrad of the Richard Ivey school of Business, ROWE describes a workplace with clear performance objectives that allows employees to choose the method of work such as hours or location. The end product is what really matters.

ROWE was developed in 2003 by two HR people at the BEST BUY headquarters in Richfield, Minn. Under ROWE, the developer Jody Thompson says, employees “actually get to act like an adult and live their lives in a way where they can do what they need to do every day in the best way possible.”(

Another example of this type of environment is Toronto Cognition LLP where lawyers work as consultants, choosing their own hours and clients. There is no articling students or typical partnership tracks. (The Globe and Mail)

Broad Reach Communications, a public relations firm in Toronto, has more than 20 associates working on a contract basis. These people left large PR firms in search of more flexible work arrangements. Rather than a billable hour model, associates are matched with clients based on specific interests and expertise.  Because performance is essential to securing future work, “everyone is motivated to do their best work” says founder Andrea Lekushoff. (Globe and Mail)

Change is difficult for any organization.  This can be especially challenging and annoying for senior workers when the change is done to adapt to the needs of a  new generation. But these transformations are inevitable and not merely a small annoyance but rather a complete revolution. With all these adjustments in the work environment, thanks to generation Y, there is a lot of apprehension too.  Perhaps the apprehension is due to misunderstandings about what the new generation has to offer. Or as James Belasco and Ralph Stayer said in their book Flight of the Buffalo  “Change is hard because people overestimate the value of what they have—and underestimate the value of what they may gain by giving that up”.

Written by Linda Singer, Co-founder at A matching site that helps companies and those seeking flexible work arrangements find each other.

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