Generation Y – Interview with myself

Generation Y - Who are they?

Kürzlich hatte ich die Ehre, auf einer größeren Firmenveranstaltung zur Veränderung der Arbeitswelt zu sprechen – und in diesem Rahmen auch ein Interview zur Generation Y zu geben. Und da das Ganze auf Englisch stattfand, bekommt mein Blog den ersten englischsprachigen Artikel. And by the way, thank you Jesse for assuring me, that I might also have readers in the US. This time they won’t have to use Google translate anymore!

The keynote focussed on four major influences Millennials will have on organizations, I have will published it here at a later point:

  • Organizations will experience the end of loyalty
  • Motivation will only work by making sense
  • Education will become a decisive factor
  • Organizations will have to act much more flexible

Generation Y appears to be absolutely spoiled and selfish?

Spoiled? Maybe. But they are children of the last 30 years, we had our fair share in shaping them. And complaining won‘t help us answering the demands of our companies for qualified employees. Organizations will need to decide individually to what extend their are willing and able to react to the demands of Generation Y – without upsetting the rest of their employees. It‘s about finding a balance of change and tradition.

Why is GenY less loyal to organizations?

This generation has seen companies laying off loyal employess like their parents or relatives, they experienced absent parents/fathers or saw them suffering from burn-outs. What they learned by that is that the traditional understanding of loyalty towards employers doesn’t pay off. Scandals and unethical behaviour of companies also added a substantial distrust towards institutions. Hence Generation Y trusts their peers, their family, personal recommendations and their own experiences – but not companies and institutions as such.

How can organizations react?

By enriching the work „experience“ through project work, by stimulating an emotional bond through social networks (both on- and offline), by engaging their workforce through better communication, allowing them to „feel“ to be part of bigger picture. Loyalty at the end is always a question of individual identification with a purpose.

Why are they then still optimistic about their future?

It seems a bit odd but generally GenY is a very optimistic generation. All research proofs that millennials remain optimistic about their own future. Surprisingly this is also true for the unemployement haunted young people in Southern Europe. One explanation might be that this generation has been raised not needing to worry about anything. They are the children of the babyboomers, having grown up in rather prosperous times. And if there were crisis it seldom affected them personally and was rather experienced as an external event. That might have added to their general longing for security, but never seriously shocked them. One also has to keep in mind that their life is dominated by strong personal ties. This is a generation that thrives on personal relationships. no other generation for instance is so close to their parents even after growing up and stays in touch with friends so easily via social networks. These relationships are their „safe harbour“ no matter how turbulent the waters of life may be.

Why is GenY so intent to have a say in everything?

They understand performance very well and are very willing to put in a lot of work – if they understand and buy into the goal. They have been brought up in a participative education system that included their opinions from early childhood on. And they expect that to continue. Also they have seen the importance of democracy with the rise of democratic movements all around the world: From the fall of the Berlin wall and the collapse of communist systems in the 90ies to the Arabic spring in the past years.

What implications does this have for organizations?

For some organizations it‘s a dramatic change: leadership almost becomes a democratic act, where you have to justify your decisions. Communication for leaders becomes much more challenging.
It also brings a new transparency into companies, since GenY is used to information sharing (while understanding and respecting the concept of confidentiality!). The idea of keeping information to themselves for reasons of power feels strange to them.

How do you put an end to endless discussions with GenY?

From my experience expectation management works very well with GenY. They are willing to accept limits if explained to them – beforehand. GenY also respects experience – they are no rebels, in fact they are a generation being still very close to their parents. Hence the concept of mentoring is much appreciated by them.

If they don‘t show loyaltywhy invest in their development?

Development is a major driver for employee retention. Their individual development within the company is what keeps them on board.

Isn‘t it also necessary to invest in the education of older employees, not only the young?

Absolutely. Keeping older employees up to date with the changing demands of their work and fast developing technology is equally important and only adds to the growing importance of education in the workplace.

Speaking of other generations: are the demands you are speaking of exclusive to GenY?

If we look e.g. at the flexibility of work place and time we see the same need coming from parents, typically 30-40 yrs old or older employees that need to take care of elderly relatives – or who simply want or need to work less. So no, most of the changes relate to all generations, but get more attention due to the Generation Y „hype“.

Graphic design by Orsolya Nemes –


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