I’ve been reading a great deal lately about Generation Y, the so-called Millennials who were born between 1978 and 2000. They’re the last batch of babies born in the 20th century.
The easiest way to think of Gen Y as a marketing cohort is as members of the Echo Generation, the beloved and coddled children of the Baby Boomers. And if you haven’t thought much about the effects this new group will have on our culture, both private and corporate, you will.
Gen Y Millennials have an entirely different mindset about work than do their parents or the generation that comes between them and their parents, Generation X (those born circa 1965-1980 and associated with the Reagan era and the go-go 90s).
It’s fascinating to read about Gen Y’s expectations. They do not believe in becoming slaves to any company; they will not be bound by the steady drip of a weekly paycheck and fervently believe in pursuing the best opportunities for themselves, even if that means changing jobs two or three times a year. They do not want to climb any ladder, corporate or otherwise.
The most forward thinking work places, such as zappos.com and Google, recognize and reward the tech-savvy talents of these young mavericks. A former student of mine employed by Google overseas raves about the mandatory Friday night mixers where employees are able to meet one another outside of the work environ. Offices are dog-friendly and partially designed by the people who work in them. Employees are given free meals and snacks. Another great perk: engineers are expected to set aside 20% of their time to work on projects of their own choosing.
At zappos.com, employees can avail themselves of massages, nap rooms, indoor rec rooms. A relaxed, rested, happy employee is a sharp employee who will stay put.
These are work conditions Gen Yers want – no, demand.
Why? Mainly because there are so many more of them than there are jobs that will become available as we old Boomers retire and/or go to The Show.
What I’ve also found interesting is the observation that some make about who does NOT care much for this generation? Not Boomers. Boomers adore these, their children. (Some say adore, perhaps, too much.)
It’s those Gen Xers — those 30 and 40 year olds who thought they would be the ones to transform the world once the old dinosaurs ahead of them died – who see the usurpers as selfish, pushy and downright rude.
Gen Xers had the poor luck to enter the workforce at a time that would become a squeeze play. They entered into the heirarchical corporate structure, began paying their dues, learned to adapt to the Web world and waited for their turn. They got married, had kids, became soccer moms and dads in their 30s and 40s. And still they waited for their turn.
However, Gen X was not able to affect the change it had envisioned. Ryan Healey, a recent college grad who founded his own Gen Y online community called Brazen Careerist, puts it this way:
“Generation X was simply too small to force any kind of change. There are about 50 million Gen Xers in the United States compared to nearly 76 million baby boomers and 77 million Millennials. When Gen Xers graduated college, the jobs were not there. With only 50 million people to fill the positions, and plenty of boomers around to fill the middle management jobs, companies had their pick of candidates. Employers took advantage by hiring only the top candidates and paying them as little as possible.
“Generation Y is 50% bigger than Generation X, and with Xers dropping out of the workforce to take care of their children, employees, not management, have the power and even a recession won’t slow down the job market. Generation Y has the same confidence, the same ambition and the same savviness as Generation X had in their twenties, but the demographics are in Gen Y’s favor. Y can ask for change and actually get it.”