Millenial Takeover: 8 Ways Gen Y Are Different To Their Predecessors

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So much about the ‘millennial generation’ is based on stereotypes, myths and misperceptions. ‘Gen Y are entitled’, ‘Gen Y aren’t loyal’, ‘Gen Y are narcissistic’ – these are only some of the common labels slapped all over this emerging cohort. Employers from around the world are left facing a reality where the pressure to engage this enigmatic emerging workforce is increasing, and yet the ability to do so seems to be diminishing.

‘I just don’t get Gen Y’

I was getting comments like these all the time when I decided to produce the book, Understanding Y. Sure, Gen Y are different in their approach to work, to their relationships, to their careers. They are the ‘anti-plan’ masters. So what makes Gen Y so “different” from their predecessors?

Here are 8 stand out examples;

1. Priority for Purpose

If you want to get the best from Gen Y – tell them “why”. Unlike their predecessors, their motivators depend on ‘purpose’. If you explain what their effort will mean in terms of the bigger picture, you’re more likely to activate their enthusiasm. Gen Y don’t think of their work as a means to an end – it is their means. They often think of their work (providing they are truly engaged in it, fulfilled by it) as an extension of themselves. They want to learn, to be challenged, and to understand the relationship between their work and the overall mission of the organisation.

“[Millennials will] work flexibly, anywhere, as long as you give them complete access to information and the ‘why’. Their values are different,” Understanding Y commentator Jerry Stilson says.

2. Flexibility Fiends

Gen Y were raised amid the fallout of the dot com bubble and tech boom of the 90s where excessive work demands that existed resulted in a sharp increase in divorce rates and a 400% increase in antidepressant use. As such, the majority of Gen Y realise the importance of a balanced life and want to work with good people and have some flexibility in where, when, and how they work. A recent Millennial Branding report found 45% of Millennials will choose workplace flexibility over pay. Millennials want more flexibility, e.g. the opportunity to shift hours to night, if necessary, but interestingly so do non-Millennials, in equal numbers. In fact, a significant number from all generations want a flexible work schedule, so much so, that they would be willing to give up pay and delay promotions in order to achieve this.

3. Appreciation for Authenticity

Gen Y value authenticity over perfection and have a specialised and well-tuned BS detector. Gen Y have been advertised to for their entire lives and have built up a defensive mechanism to protect them from lies and trickery. They have little time for pretence or office politics and if they feel you’re disingenuous, it will be extremely difficult to win back their respect. If you can own failures, be sincere in your apologies, shoot straight and cut the cr*p – Gen Y will be interested in listening. If you don’t – you won’t be heard by this Generation.

4. Disruption Diehards

The Business and Professional Women’s Foundation estimates that by 2025, 75% of the global workforce will be Gen Y, making this generation incredibly influential now and into the future. With their propensity to break the rules, think outside the box and question the establishment when doing what has ‘always been done this way’ makes little sense to them – Gen Y are set to cause mass disruption to our world. For Gen Y, disruption doesn’t hold the same negative connotations it did for previous generations – it’s exciting, it’s something they enjoy doing.

5. Diversity Dependants

Gen Y are impatient and get bored very easily. They are constantly craving new distractions, new passions, new hobbies and new projects. If they’re not being constantly challenged by “new” at work – they will look for a “new” company in the hope of being exposed to something “new” on a more regular basis. The need for “new” is a product of growing up in the 1990s, raised by Boomers who were happy to provide us with a constant need for “new”. This is why Gen Y are unfazed in a constant state of chaos and change.

6. Connected Creatures

Gen Y are constantly connected, and have been their entire adult lives. They had mobile phones in high-school and MySpace, Facebook and Twitter at university, and as they began their careers, were early adopters of LinkedIn. Gen Y is a generation like no other and with our huge social networks and vast connections we have a voice that is louder, and more impactful, than any previous generation.

7. Respect is to be Earned (Not Expected)

Gen Y won’t offer up respect because you’re older, more senior, have a bigger bank account or have been in your job for 5 years longer than they have been alive. As far as Gen Y are concerned, if you’re a douche, you’re a douche. – wealthy, senior or otherwise. The same rule applies to the good guys. Respect comes from being authentic and genuine, not through seniority.

8. Live to Learn

Gen Y care less about money and more about learning, with more than 77 percent of pending 2013 graduates expecting their first employer to provide formal training. Generation Y demand high quality learning that meets their individual needs, which was the same for previous generations, only previous generations often did not ask. Gen Y however have no problem asking – and if they aren’t receiving the education in the workplace they expect – they will leave for somewhere that will. They value it that highly!


Charlie Caruso is the Editor and Co-Author of the recently published book, Understanding Y, which is the ultimate generational myth-buster, providing unique insight into a generation raised to break the rules. Charlie is also the Founder and CEO of PuggleFM, a NFP online radio station for parents can trust for valuable, commercial free content, and families can enjoy music together. PuggleFM was listed in Shoe String Australia’s Top 10 Start-ups for 2013. Charlie was listed in 30under30 (Young Entrepreneur Awards) and received the Special Inspiration Recognition Award at the 2013 WAITTA Awards for her contribution to the ICT Industry.

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