It’s a Mistake to Hire a Gen Y

May 4, 2011

Lack of work ethic. Demanding and impatient.

Those are a few of the words used to describe Generation Y who are now in the workforce. Gen-Y’s are people born between 1977 and 1992 and are between the ages of 19 and 34. Wikipedia describes Gen-Y’s as “…the “Trophy Generation”, or “Trophy Kids,” a term that reflects the trend in competitive sports, as well as many other aspects of life, where mere participation is frequently enough for a reward. It has been reported that this is an issue in corporate environments. Some employers are concerned that Millennials have too great expectations from the workplace. Studies predict that Generation Y will switch jobs frequently, holding far more than Generation X due to their great expectations.”
There are a lot of negative articles out there and people saying they would never hire a Gen-Y. I’ve even had people in my industry tell me that I should not hire Gen-Y because they are not loyal and will just leave after you’ve invested, trained, and mentored them. I read one article last week by Mike Doman titled “Won’t Hire a Gen Y? Y?“. That article was enough to get me to write this post as I’ve had a lot of my own thoughts on this over the last few years.

Why It’s a Mistake to Hire a Gen Y

1) lack of work ethic; 2) demanding; 3) impatient; 4) slackers; 5) not loyal; 6) more demanding when advancing their careers; 7) better office amenities; 8) want more time off; 9) want more training opportunities; 10) more mentoring.
When you hear all those things it sounds like a disaster to employ and manage a group of people like that.
Last year, I attended an EO Accelerator event where we had Laura Schildkraut, an expert on Onboarding Gen-Y, talk about generational challenges in the workforce. She’s an excellent speaker on the subject and I thought her talk was incredibly valuable as she dove into the differences between Traditionalist, Baby Boomer, Gen X, and Gen Y.  Below is a partial chart that Laura provided to us — and a download link to the full Generational Chart.
[table id=9 /]
I’m a Gen X and I can see some of those characteristics between Gen X and Gen Y.

Forget about Differences, Create a Culture

I have a different opinion on this. While I’m only three years into running thinkspace. I have decided that I don’t give a crap about what generation a person is in. There’s too many things to consider when dealing with Baby Boomers versus Gen X versus Gen Y. I’ve decided to build my company based on a set of core values and create a culture around those core values. When I hire, what I care about most is — does this person fit into the culture of the company. If the person doesn’t, they are an instant no hire. I feel so strong about this that if an employee doesn’t share these core values then they just need to be set free and pursue something that is more in-line with their core values. It seems better to me to build a company around a set of core values and clear expectations. I think that people that say they won’t hire Gen Y have probably not aligned their core values with where they work or are managers that do not set clear expectations for their employees.

Photo by TedXSea

I decided to ask a few of my Entrepreneur Organization friends who are running successful companies what their views are on Gen Y. Here’s what Ben Huh, CEO of Cheezburger Network has to say:

Do they have a lack of work ethic?

Ben Huh: “Absolutely not. I think it’s dumb to generalize the work ethic of entire generations of people.”

Do they want everything now?

Ben Huh: “Yes. But didn’t we all when we were young? But this generation knows how to get things right away, especially when it comes to information. It’s actually a skill.”

Are they too self-centered?

Ben Huh: “No. I’ve seen great teamwork and sacrifice from Gen Y.”

Are they not loyal to employers?

Ben Huh: “I think they’re more likely to look for better opportunities. But I think that employers who provide good environments and opportunities for growth can retain the good ones and let the others move on.”
By the way, Ben is hiring and has a ton of open jobs.
Michael Brown, CEO of Affirma Consulting, says “We haven’t found generation a significant factor in work ethic or loyalty. Seldom do I meet older generations that consider their successors as industrious. Seldom do I meet younger generations that think their predecessors got it right. When these ideologies rub together, these theories and frustrations surface. A mutual understanding and respect, clear road map, true alignment and focus on progress is where I have seen this combination innovate together.”
What do you think? Is the problem Gen Y or is it you in how you build teams and manage people? In a startup do you hire Gen Y or go after people with more experience?