Why employers are yet to suss out Generation Y

They want work life balance, but not at the expense of a good salary

Younger employees are more likely to value loyalty than you think.

With a growing economy and job creation on the up, there are increasing opportunities for young people to get onto – and climb – the career ladder.
But just because career prospects are looking positive, that doesn’t mean that it’s business as usual for hiring and growing talent. Our recent research shows that traditional career routes towards management roles may not be as appealing to Generation Y as employers think. To get both the best from a Gen Y workforce and to ensure that there is not a shortage of talented managers in the future, employers should revisit the following myths:

Gen Y wants to lead

A fifth of employers think Gen Y’s main ambition is to lead their own team. Yet our research, split into categories of 18 to 24-year olds and 25 to 34-year olds, found that a balanced life and a sense of fulfilment ranked far higher on both groups’ long-term priority lists. This doesn’t mean that Gen Y don’t want to be leaders, but employers should recognise what else is important to them.

Different ages want different things

It might be surprising, but the long-term priorities and ambitions of the two groups we surveyed were exactly the same, with both identifying “earning a great salary,” “being totally fulfilled and happy in my work,” and “to have achieved a great work life balance” as priorities. Employers may be wrongly assuming that younger team members are motivated in completely different ways to those in older age brackets.

Younger employees are less loyal

Just 3 per cent of employers would associate loyalty with 18 to 24-year olds, but 26 per cent say that 25 to 34-year olds are likely to be loyal. Conversely, 64 per cent of 18 to 24-year old employees think it is important to be loyal to their employer, compared to 56 per cent of 25 to 34-year olds. There’s a risk that employers are not recognising how committed Gen Y are to their businesses. If employees don’t feel like this commitment is recognised, they may look for opportunities elsewhere.

Work life balance is for those with families

Achieving a work life balance isn’t only an aspiration for those with children. Our research found that Gen Y also think it’s important, even if they are just starting out in their career. But this balance may mean something different, and it’s worthwhile having regular career conversations to identify what’s important to younger workers.

Company values aren’t important

Far from securing “any old job” in a competitive market, company values are more important to Gen Y employees than employers think. They are discerning when it comes to choosing where they want to work, and how loyal and committed they want to be.
Overall, the research shows that 18 to 34-year olds have a very broad list of things they care about when choosing a job and developing their career – and these may not be fully recognised by management. While salary and progression will never stop being important, Gen Y also needs to be listened to. Otherwise, organisations could be investing time and energy in initiatives that don’t connect or resonate. And that can have serious long-term business consequences.
Bev White is managing director of Penna Career Services.

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