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Kenexa research dispells myths about generation Y


Millennial workers are often depicted as a unique and hard-to-manage generation, however a study published yesterday claims that isn’t the case.

The Kenexa High Performance Institute, a division of Kenexa a global HR consultancy, has found the attitudes of today's young people are very similar to those of previous generations at the same stages of their life and career. Millennials - or generation Y - are those born between 1982 and 2003. Business experts and the media often say that the work attitudes, values and personality traits of this generation differ from its predecessors: generation X (born 1961-1981) and baby boomers (born 1943-1960).

In particular, that millennials expect to be praised for every small accomplishment, they have little tolerance for menial tasks, they're rarely satisfied and if they don't like their job, they walk. To examine the truth of these accusations, Kenexa tracked back through 27 years of its research into the attitudes of employees, to find out how previous generations felt at the same age and at the same stage of their career. The results are now available in a free white paper called Attitude? What Attitude?, which has implications for the management, development and retention of millennials.

Kenexa's study shows that in 2009, 31% of 27 year-old millennials were considering leaving their organisation. But it also shows that nearly two decades earlier, in 1990, 31% of 27-year-old generation Xers were also considering leaving.

Two in five (42%) of millennials say they are paid fairly, compared to 41% for baby boomers and 38% for generation Xers, at the same stage of their careers.

Millennials are also more satisfied with their organisation as a place to work, more satisfied with the opportunities they have for growth and development, more positive about the recognition they personally receive and more satisfied with the job security provided by their organisation.

Past research indicates millennials also have a higher level of acceptance of others, regardless of race or class. Rena Rasch, research manager at the Kenexa High Performance Institute, who co-authored the white paper with her colleague Brenda Kowske, said: "Upstart generations, with their brash attitudes and behaviour, have always been a source of consternation for older workers. Millennials are often depicted as a collective group of malcontents but our research shows that their attitudes stem from their career stage or their youth.

"The reality is that, generationally-speaking, millennials are much like their predecessors when they were the same age. In fact, millennials today are little different from the hippies of the sixties and the next generation of workers is likely to be much the same. "Younger workers have always been inclined to leave organisations. Life is full of opportunities and young people aren't afraid to explore them. This is an age-related difference, not a generational trait that's unique to millennials. "In some key areas, millennials may even turn out to be better employees and, eventually, better employers than their predecessors. A key implication of this study is that HR practitioners and managers may not need to develop paradigm-shifting strategies exclusively for millennials."