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Gen Y·Leadership·Mentorship·Perception·Professional Development

The Truth About Gen Y

In June, I co-facilitated a session for HR executives from across the country about engagement of Gen Y workers in the workplace.  While the overall goal of the session was to discuss ways to get Gen Y members to contribute more to their retirement plans, the conversation and statistics clearly uncovered a lack of engagement of Gen Y because of assumptions being made about this demographic.

After a brief exercise to gauge the attendees’ initial perceptions of Gen Y workers, we ended up with the following synopsis of them:

“They are tech savvy, terrible team players, lazy, and entirely disloyal to employers.” 

Ouch.  But then we had some great discussions about those perceptions.

It is because of these perceptions that credit unions – and employers in general – are not investing time and resources into getting younger employees to contribute to their retirement plans.  But this is symptomatic of a larger problem.

Based on pre-workshop surveys of both the panelists and members of the Cooperative Trust, Gen Y workers are planning to stay at their current employer three times as long as what the panelists assumed – a disparity of almost 10 years.  Not only is it causing Gen Y to neglect contributing to their retirement plans, but it is because of these perceptions that Gen Y workers are not being engaged in their jobs and companies.

But the discussion from that point painted a picture of similarities between Gen Y workers and the rest of their coworkers.  Study after study that I read said that workers today want more flexible schedules, the ability to work remotely, a more fun and casual environment, and opportunities for professional advancement.  Interestingly, the biggest difference between Gen Y employees and their predecessors is that they are more willing to ask for things they want while their Gen X and Baby Boomer counterparts (while they, too, want those same things) felt like they needed more time under their belt before making such requests.

You see, it’s all about engagement.  According to a recent study by Kenexa, almost an equal percentage of employees from all Gen Y, Gen X, and Baby Boomers said:

  • They aren’t paid fairly
  • They are excited about their work
  • And, surveyed at the same age over two decades, the same percentage of Gen Xers and Gen Yers said they were considering leaving their job

Another study said that nearly three-quarters of employees aren’t fully engaged at their jobs.  That is across all generations.

So what can we do to increase engagement?

  • Empower employees by challenging them with new projects
  • Provide them with development opportunities
  • Recognize them publicly for outstanding performance
  • Provide opportunities for co-worker interaction and teamwork
  • Encourage supervisors to lead, coach, and mentor employees instead of just managing tasks and projects

While doing these things will engage Gen Y in the workplace, making them more loyal to your organization and better employees, these are smart practices that will benefit all of your workers.  After all, your employees are your company’s greatest asset.

Leave a Comment


  1. Amanda,

    A great post–and spot on with your ideas when it comes to Generation Y. One additional step we can do to fully engage Gen. Y workers is to involve them in your strategic planning process. I’m amazed at how many credit unions list “attract younger members” as one of their strategic initiatives, yet there is no one from Generation Y on the strategic planning team. What’s up with that? Make sure you have a few people from Generation Y participate in your strategic planning session. Their insights may surprise you.


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