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.

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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?

15 replies
  1. Laura Kimball
    Laura Kimball says:

    Man, Pete, when I saw this post come across Twitter I was about to change how I think about you — thank you for proving me wrong :)

    I appreciate how you laid out the generational debate. I feel like the conversation about Gen Y in the workplace is a little overdone and part of it is because me, a Gen Yer, is tired of being analyzed and talked about. When it comes to work or working on a project I’m passionate about, all I want is to work towards getting it done and achieving my goal.

    It aligns with how you have built thinkspace around core values and work hard to recruit employees who fit in with that culture. We need to stop asking “What’s wrong with Gen Y?” and start answering, “How can we work together?” It’s a workplace/team building issue, not a generational issue.

    Sure, it’d be easier if the young, spry 20somethings who “want it all” and “want it now” come to work with a handbook of how we act and should be motivated. But can we get one for figuring out how to work with Gen Xers and Baby Boomers, please?

    • Peter Chee
      Peter Chee says:

      I know, the title is a bit out of character for me and since you know me it probably was a bit surprising. I totally agree with you on the it’s a workplace/team building issue. When i entered the workforce I of course was the youngest person on the team and I was always pushing technology and wanting to implement change. It scared the people that I was working with because I was always trying to change the way things are done. I was labeled a “rouge”. I think that every generation views the prior generation as trouble makers as they come in with different views and have a different story. The key thing is figuring out how to work together as a team and as Michael Brown put it, it’s important to have a mutual understanding and respect.

  2. Jason mKey
    Jason mKey says:

    My father, a model employee, gave his life to three different companies in a 20 year span and each one of them let him go due to no fault of his own.

    Why should Gen Y be loyal when employers tend to not be loyal? Many of us witnessed Baby Boomers get the short end of the stick and as a generation many of us have stoop up and said NO that’s not going to happen to me. Employers rarely hesitate to let an employee go if it’s going to effect their bottom line. Why shouldn’t employees act the same way?

    Loyalty? Sorry that died a long time ago.

    • Peter Chee
      Peter Chee says:

      Jason, I appreciate you sharing that. I agree. It’s a two way streak. Personally, I think it’s a bit sad that there is less loyalty, but, it’s important to keep a company growing with new challenges so that employees don’t get bored and just go chasing the next bright shiny object.

  3. Tinker Barnett
    Tinker Barnett says:

    Great article for highlighting the angst in workplaces over generations. Many do not believe in generational differences yet, the proof is in the level of stress that managers are experiencing and the high turnover rates of young hires. I agree that businesses must own the responsibility for quality management and those adapting to changes in today’s workplace, particularly around technology and use of time, are much more able to make the best of Gen Y skills and values and develop their weak areas.

    • Peter Chee
      Peter Chee says:

      Hi Tinker, I think you nailed it when you talk about the stress that managers face when an employee leaves — many of them have told me that they don’t like to re-train employees. They look at other generations as more stable.

      Gen Y definitely have different skill sets that other generations don’t have and I certainly appreciate that in the people that work for me.

  4. Tinker Barnett
    Tinker Barnett says:

    Hiring Gen Y to get the best from them will require most companies (most owners and managers today are Traditionalists and Boomers) time and energy = money, to adapt from their standardized way of doing things. It would be great to be able to quantify that in terms of ROI because it is a hard sell right now.

  5. e-Spot®
    e-Spot® says:

    Great article! I think people are loyal to those they know, like and trust…its all about building the right relationships. I’m from Gen Y (1982) and manage a huge network of entrepreneurs everyday from Baby boomers, Gen X and Y and actually love the differences in generations. I learn so much every day from everyone of all ages. You’re absolutely right, when core values are aligned it’s clearly the right fit for both parties and one should never compromise anything for their values. It’s normal to have differences between generations but when we start to have biases based on them, I think it’s a sign that we just need to learn how to have the right conversations with each other.

  6. Michelle Hollomon
    Michelle Hollomon says:

    I supervise Gen Yers in the counseling profession. They are working toward their clinical hours for licensure. They seem to be hard working, motivated, and conscientious. I have noticed that they seem less intimitated by hierarchy than when i was getting my hours. They jump right in with opinions and insights. They seem to value autonomy and collaboration more than hierarchy and ladder climbing.
    I’m a Gen X and I’ve had a lot of fun with the Gen Y’s I’ve supervised.

    • Peter Chee
      Peter Chee says:

      Hi Michelle – thanks for providing your professional counseling insight on this. The thing that I admire about Gen Y is that they genuinely care for the greater good. The time that they give to non-profit work is inspiring.

      I agree, Gen Y do not appear to be too intimidated with titles and hierarchy. Some times it feels like who cares what you did in the past, what have you done lately. Do you feel like they can look anyone in the eye and just give their opinion? It’s almost like a fearless quality. The other thing that is nice is that because they do value autonomy and collaboration it makes for some very spirited conversation. I enjoy supervising Gen Y’s on my team as well.

  7. Mike Jensen
    Mike Jensen says:

    Great Post Peter. I was surprised by the title, and glad to see how it all came around. I totally agree with your point about hiring around culture. First and foremost any new hire needs to be a strong fit and align with mission, vision and values. Skills can be learned and taught, Culture and Fit…not so much.

    Also, I think the arguement of “I wont hire a Gen Y” make zero sense in reality. At almost 2x the Gen X population, this IS the next generation deal with it! We all have our needs, and like Laura pointed out, we need to get beyond all the analysis. Focus on creating a work environment that drives results, recognizes success, and provides opportunity and challenge.

    • Peter Chee
      Peter Chee says:

      Thank Mike. Skills can be learned so long as the person has the aptitude to learn it. Culture, not so much. Those values are pretty much engrained at an early age — like the things that were instilled in us when we were 8 years old. Otherwise, it seems like it takes a massive life shift in order to make those kinds of core value changes.

      Yes, when you look at the total number of Gen Y’ers out there they certainly are going to dominate and be the one’s making all the decisions when their time comes.

  8. Better Managers
    Better Managers says:

    Gen Y is getting a bad rap when managers need to realize that times have changed and so too have employees. Understanding today’s younger workforce is essential if any company wishes to succeed in the future. Just blogged about it. Read it here and let me know what you think!


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