Seek To Understand Part IV: Generation Y

Understanding the differences between our generations is a core building block to a successful multigenerational workplace. Each generation has unique life and socioeconomic experiences that have molded their values, beliefs, preferences, and expectations and impacted who they are as a group.

Generation Y: Born 1978-1995

Generation Y, also referred to as Millennials, has been dubbed by some as the ‘Echo Boomers’, due to the significant increase in birth rates through the 1980s and 1990s, and because many of them are children of Baby Boomers. Gen Y numbers around 80 million members. They are often more loyal to their peers than to their employer. Teamwork is important to them. They work because they want to make a contribution. When it comes to rules, they create their own. If you thought Generation X pushed the envelope of tradition, you haven’t seen anything yet! Growing up parcel to a “no-one-left-behind” generation, Gen Y is loyal, committed and wants to be included and involved.

Common Characteristics

Socially engaged

Technologically savvy








Generation Y grew up in a media-obsessed and technology-frenzied environment.  Their parents were optimistic Baby Boomers, who built an idealistic, empowering, and positive culture surrounding them as youths. They grew up in diversity and think of it as a natural occurrence, and their cell phones, laptops, and iPods are an extension of their being.  Classified as a “hero” type generation, Gen Y’ers are heavily dependent on team work, but as adults will emerge as compelling, resolute leaders. Often chided as narcissistic or self-entitled, Generation Y is civic- and socially- minded and many volunteer where they see a need and where they feel they can make a worthy contribution. Generation Y, never really “rebelled” against their parents, unlike previous generations, often enjoying the same movies and music, and holding their parents up as their very real and highly respected heroes.

Notable Generation Y Members

Chelsea Clinton

Britney Spears

LeBron James

Lindsey Lohan

Macaulay Culkin

Prince William

Christina Aguilera

Elijah Wood

We don’t have much historical evidence on Generation Y in the workplace, as their presence is only now burgeoning on the scene. Having grown up in an environment of multi-tasking, Gen Y doesn’t think twice about holding down multiple jobs at once, even in diverse fields.  Generation Y have been referred to as “Trophy Kids”, reflecting the trend in team sports during their youth where participation was rewarded in lieu of actual achievement. “Everyone is a winner!” This is not, however, the current corporate mentality. Studies predict Gen Y will switch jobs frequently and expect benefits immediately from new employers that historically are tenure-based. This generation prefers to communicate through email and text messaging rather than face-to-face which has weakened their interpersonal skill set to an extent.

Gen Y, unlike earlier generations entering the workforce, is being met with three older generations of workers as well, creating quite a conundrum for managers. In the coming years, however, the majority of the workforce will be comprised of Generation Y – we can only imagine what they will ultimately expect and come to command as part of such an influential conglomerate.

Filed in Generation Y, Generational Understanding, Understanding Your Customer