A look at the largest consumer group and some of your top workforce performers

Companies take note; your organization is changing right before your eyes! While some employees are leaving, whether retiring or going to a competitor, you have fresh blood entering your organization. Within the make-up of your workforce, you could potentially have people working together from four distinct generations. Managing and balancing their expectations and needs is a daunting task for some organizations who are failing, as their employee turnover rates are increasing. Today, organizations are faced with the endeavour of anticipating their generation’s unique work styles in order to engage their employees by fulfilling, and in most cases, exceeding their expectations.

This is not a new discussion. In fact, for years the study of generations has grown in popularity as more organizations are interested in maximizing their employee productivity by gaining a better understanding of their employees. Books, blogs, television programs, even university courses are dedicated to studying the generations in order to facilitate organizations in recruiting and retaining the best talent for their workplace.

The Generations:

Introducing Generation Y – one of the most studied, often misunderstood and complex generations of our time. To understand this unique breed, we must first understand the generations preceding them. While sources have assigned different time ranges for the generations, two things remain consistent: the values and views shared within each of these groups. Welcome grandparents of Generation Y, also known as the Silent Generation, the Greatest Generation or The Veterans. This group grew up during WWII, married early, appreciated discipline, hard work and the simple things in life. They taught their children that success would follow with hard work. With that, the parents of Gen Y were born. Commonly known as the Baby Boomers,or the “ME” Generation, and, unlike their parents, they grew up having high expectations. They believed that hard work equated to a secure, successful career. This group actually helped give meaning to work-life balance, as work became just as important as personal and family obligations. That is, hard work made life possible. Interestingly, for many Baby Boomers, their actual realities exceeded their initial expectations and with that, the message “you can be anything you want to be”, was passed onto their children, Generation Y. Between Baby Boomers and Generation Y is a cohort called Generation X or “the most well educated” generation to date. Today, Generation X is phasing into positions, mainly leadership roles, formerly occupied by Baby Boomers as this cohort begins to retire.

Y is Generation Y so complex?

Many of your ambitious, go-getter employees are most likely from Generation Y. Also referred to as Nexters, the Millennial Generation, Generation Echo Boomers or even the Peter Pan Generation, this cohort begins roughly with the birth years of the 1980s to the early 2000s. These are the employees who bend the rules, who gave new meaning to the term work-life balance and are not afraid of authority or overstepping the traditional channels of communication within your organization. They are highly efficient in terms of multi-tasking and can learn how to maneuver a computer software program within a few minutes. Unlike other generations, this is the first to teach and educate their predecessors when it comes to technology. They were born with the Internet and living in this digital age has forced this group to interpret and digest information at alarming speeds. As such, they develop faster, are undertaking important positions and acquiring leadership skills at a relatively early age.

Engaging & Attracting

To engage and attract this breed, consider the following seven factors when trying to retain and motivate your Gen Y employees.

  1. Tech Savvy – Communicating using email and/or social media should be promoted within your organization. Traditional in-person meetings or phone conversations are a thing of the past for this group.
  2. Autonomy & Tenacity – They enjoy working on meaningful tasks with a high degree of independence and trust. Micro-managers need not apply.
  3. Work-Life Blending – Hard working, Gen Y employees want to be connected 24/7 but also want to enjoy their personal time. For this generation, there is no distinction between work-life but rather a blend between work and life.
  4. Flexible Schedules – Traditional 9-5 working hours are a thing of the past. This generation is not concerned with the hours spent but rather with the quality and productivity of the work performed. Alongside flexible hours and work-life blend, these employees like to have the option of working from home or telecommuting when needed. Having a structure around this (e.g. only allowing telecommuting two or three days a week) can help make this option successful.
  5. Innovation – Known for thinking outside of the box, Gen Y’ers are self-inventive and individualists. Put them in an environment where their skills are truly maximized.
  6. Learning & Independence – Gen Y employees like to figure things out on their own by understanding an assignment or project and the intricate parts before tackling it.
  7. Education and Training – Not optional. This generation want to develop their careers. With this in mind, ensure you have an environment that promotes and encourages collaboration, development and employee training.

Jennifer Haineault
Consultant, Assessment Solutions


Ashkenas, Ron. “Forget Work-Life Balance: It’s Time for Work-Life Blend.” Forbes. N.P, 2012. Web. 15 Dec. 2013.

Filipczak, Bob, Claire Raines, and Ron Zemke. Generations at Work: Managing the Clash of Boomers, Gen Xers and Gen Yers in the Workplace. New York: AMACOM, 2000. Print.