How Gen Y Can Affect Corporate Culture

Written By: Lisa Rohe

Older engineer mentoring younger engineer

Mentor Gen Y employees but also listen to their ideas. They are skilled in the latest technologies and can teach Baby Boomers new tricks and methods.

Organizational culture is the basic pattern of shared assumptions, values, and beliefs governing the way employees within an organization think about and act on problems and opportunities. It exists in the background of every organization, is rarely talked about, and yet drives employee’s actions. It impacts productivity and performance and can cause disruption among the employees if the existing culture is threatened.1

Many organizations have begun to see a shift in culture due to the hiring and integration of a new generation of younger employees into their work force. These employees represent Generation X (1962-1979) and Y (1980-2000) and together they bring many different values and beliefs into organizations that have been staffed with Baby Boomers (1946-1961) for many years.

Previously, the assimilation of the different age groups blended well together, with the Baby Boomers teaching Gen X and Y the standard practices of the organization. But Gen X and Y have ideas of their own and strive to implement new thought processes and behaviors within an organization. They are after a more relaxed culture with freedom to balance work with home life. A different work ethic, personal recognition, and career advancements are important. Thinking of it as an “old school-new school” battle, Gen X and Y would like their co-workers to conform to their habits and work ethics, not the other way around. Gen X and Y test existing cultures and ultimately may lead to a change in organizational culture.

The article “Here they come — Gen Y. Are you ready?” written by Herbeson and Boseman, May 2009, states many Generation Y employees are:

  • educated and smart but need guidance
  • more connected than any previous generation but challenged by face-to-face conflict
  • outwardly confident but possessing a delicate sense of self
  • high performing but also high maintenance
  • want and expect regular feedback
  • do not take criticism well
  • challenge authority
  • continually ask “why”
  • expect to climb the corporate ladder quickly
  • want to start with a large salary
  • want to be allowed the flexibility to set their own hours
  • carry no corporate loyalty into their positions, as they have witnessed too many baby boomers (their parents) losing their jobs after many years of service

What can an organization do to effectively incorporate Gen Y employees into their culture?

  1. Mentor – Not only teach the new employee about the way processes are currently handled, but listen to their ideas. Fresh thoughts often bring process improvements. Generation Y employees are very skilled in the latest technology. They can teach the Baby Boomers new tricks and new methods of conducting research and creating spreadsheets.
  2. Provide regular feedback – the annual performance review may have to become the quarterly performance review. Better yet, why wait for a formal meeting? Encourage open and frequent dialogue expressing a job well done, or making a recommendation for an improvement.
  3. Engage – Generation Y employees like to feel engaged and part of the process. If they view themselves as a valuable part of a project or process, a strong sense of loyalty may emerge.
  4. Flexible work time – set the time requirements up front and compromise on the desires of both parties.
  5. Provide and encourage training for all employees – The Generation Y employees are always seeking knowledge (always asking why). Encourage them to continue their education, send them to seminars, webinars, etc. It will go a long way toward sending a message that they are a valuable asset to the company. It will also enable them to become experts in their position and provide the framework for career advancement. Likewise, baby boomers need to continue their training in order to stay employable and up to date with technology and new work processes.

Many organizations have a long way to go to incorporate the many generations into a happy, content, and productive organization. As the workforce switches over from baby boomers to Generation Y and beyond, the wants, desires, and demands of these individuals will prevail. An organization must be ready to change with them. Are you ready?

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References:
1. Steven L. McShane and Mary Ann Von Glinow (2005, 2003, 2000). Organizational Behavior 3e. Introduction, p 16. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill
2. Here They Come-Generation Y. Are You Ready? by Gerry Herbison, Glenn Boseman. Journal of Financial Service Professionals (2009). Volume: 63, Issue: 3, Publisher: Society of Financial Service Professionals, Pages: 33-34. http://www.mendeley.com/research/comegeneration-y-ready/
3. How Gen Y and Boomers Will Reshape Your Agenda by Sylvia Ann Hewlett, Laura Sherbin, Karen Sumberg. Source: Harvard Business Review 9 pages. Publication date: Jul 01, 2009. Prod. #: R0907G-PDF-ENG. http://hbr.org/product/how-gen-y-and-boomers-will-reshape-your-agenda/an/R0907G-PDF-ENG

Lisa has been with Bastian Material Handling since 2002. She has over 20 years of experience in accounting, in both the manufacturing and distribution industries. Lisa has an BS in Accounting degree from Indiana University and has recently obtained her MBA degree from Butler University.

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3 comments

  1. Tom Napier says:

    Great Article! I just tweeted the link. Your analysis is spot on for GenY and GenX. It may have something to do w/ Technology and the instant information age but I find it refreshing when GenX/Y are full of energy and enthusiasm. BTW, we all need feedback but Boomers have learned to live without as much as our younger colleagues.

  2. Great post – I think it highlights the fact that organizations need to consider the differing needs of the emerging Gen Y. As a member of Gen Y, the traits listed do correlate to my attitudes and values. I think more organizations needs to think strategically on how to on-board, retain, and engage this new workforce. I work for a consulting firm that specializes in helping organizations reach out to Gen Y consumers and employees, so the article was very interesting :)

    -April Pantall
    http://www.silvermoonconsulting.com

  3. Bill Galbraith says:

    You forgot to mention the “key” attitude….a sence of entitlement

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