Gen Y workers represent a 'ticking time-bomb of potential cost and disruption' to employers

Jessica Pryce-Jones , 21 Jan 2013


Generation Y workers represent the management class of the future, yet they also exhibit a new-found job mobility which, from an employer’s point of view, is a ticking time-bomb of potential cost and disruption to their businesses.

The iOpener Institute in October 2012 gathered and studied questionnaire responses relating to workforce issues from over 18,000 global professionals, to gain insights into how employers can retain their Gen-Y talent. What is clear from this research is that while pay and financial rewards are not unimportant to Gen Y – they're not prepared to be under-paid for their work – there is no significant correlation between increased levels of pay and greater talent retention.

Instead, the research points to the importance of job satisfaction to Gen Y, showing a strong correlation between fulfilment and the likelihood of quitting. Statistically speaking, job fulfilment (or, rather, lack of it) explains almost 60% of the variance in a Gen Y employee's desire to leave. Gen Y is simply not prepared to stay in jobs that make them unhappy.

It is also worth noting that, there is an extremely strong alignment between job fulfilment and feeling that your occupation is doing something worthwhile. Managers would therefore do well to help Gen Y by raising awareness of how their organisation's products, services and culture is worthwhile and has a positive impact the on the world. And providing Gen Y with opportunities to contribute to the community through meaningful work will help retain them in an organisation.

Gen Y also needs to believe in the strategic direction that their employer is pursuing. A correlation was noted between the trust that Gen Y employees have in their leaders' vision, and their intention to leave the organisation. This highlights the need to regularly and convincingly communicate key points of corporate strategy, along with tangible proof points of how that strategy is being implemented and the contribution it is making to corporate success.

As digital natives, word of mouth interaction has become much easier for Gen Y, with online and social network infrastructures facilitating such communications. A company's reputation among Gen Y is heavily influenced by these conversations, because Gen Y turns to these channels to find out about job opportunities and learn about the companies that offer them. So, for an employer to attract Gen Y talent, its employees must be spreading the good word about their high levels of job fulfilment and enjoyable working environment.

Businesses are recognising that Gen Y is different from the previous generations, especially in terms of job mobility. No organisation wants to invest in the next generation of management only to find that they leave and destroy return on that investment. Therefore, it is essential to develop strategies that retain Generation Y talent and attract further top-level candidates in this age group.

Employers should build pride by giving recognition to employees and colleagues, and ensuring that they spread good news. Creating internal visibility of the impact of the organisation's work and the benefit it is having is also key, and will tap into the civic-mindedness that typifies Gen Y.

Ultimately though, companies must ensure that Generation Y understand the opportunities on offer within the organisation, enabling them to see a path of progression and job fulfilment.

Jessica Pryce- Jones (pictured) is joint founder and partner of the iOpener institute for People & Performance.

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Is this really Gen Y?

Marcus Body 21 Jan 2013

As with most Gen Y research, I want to know if there's a statistically significant difference with Gen X? E.g. Are Gen X REALLY prepared to stay in jobs that make them unhappy? Do Gen X NOT need to believe in strategic direction? Are Gen X employees not ALSO now more active on social media, so more influenced by word of mouth? I'm not disputing the findings, but I do wonder if it's really a "Gen Y" thing, or in reality a more general shift across the working age population. I'm not aware of any comparative studies where the same questions were asked of Gen X at an equivalent age, but happy to stand corrected.

Bring it on!

Nixon 24 Jan 2013

Gen Y are a welcome threat, IMHO. People who don't put up with being miserable and treated poorly will hopefully encourage employers to be more thoughtful when it comes to the way they treat their staff. If you treat your employees with kindness, respect, and in an inclusive manner you have nothing to worry about.

Familiar findings

Phyllis Weiss Haserot 28 Jan 2013

I have seen similar conclusions in several other studies in the U.S. and have observed some of the same attitudes in my work solving inter-generational challenges in the workplace. While Gen Yers may not be the only generation that feels as the research expressed, especially in today's world, they have been the most vocal - and that is a difference.

Longtudinal studies

Linus Jonkman 01 Feb 2013

There are in fact some longtudinal studies that have looked into how youngsters of different generations answered the same questions. The psychologist Jean Twenge does a great job explaining this in her book "Generation me". From my findings we are not our age, we are our time. A teenager of today is not like a teenager from the 40:ies. Findings like these are extremely interesting and at the sametime very complex. We see behavioural patterns that are sometimes generational and at other times just a matter of zeitgeist that influences everyone on the planet. Either way, the subject is so fascinating. (I have delved into the subject of generation quite a bit and if you understand swedish you can read my posts about it on my blog

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