The 2015 Workforce: Generation Y

Businesspeople in a meeting at start up companyThe workforce of 2015 is more culturally, gender and age diverse than ever before. With many businesses now employing around four generations of workers it is important to cater to many expectations.
Fresh faced Millennial’s are working alongside soon to retire Baby Boomers. By understanding what motivates your employees, you hold the key to providing a work environment and suitable benefits which are of most interest to your workforce.
In this four part series, we’ll explore each generation populating the workforce. What makes them tick? Understand their youth, their working lives and how to motivate and communicate with them.


Generation Y 1980 – 1995

The Digital Native

Growing up in a world filled with technology which was rapidly evolving and changing before their eyes, Generation Y are the true digital natives. In a space of less than 30 years, they saw the home movie market completely reinvent itself. From VHS to DVD to Blu Ray to Downloads and Streaming, the way the information is delivered to us has completely changed. We won’t even begin with the mobile phones...Suffice to say, this generation is more than apt at adapting to new technology and the ‘next big thing’, making them very quick learners.

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Living in a world of instant connections, Gen Y became teenagers and young adults at the dawn of the social media era. It is now easier than ever to connect with friends and colleagues halfway across the world. ‘Likes’ and ‘follows’ became expected soon after posting on various social networks, but this has not helped with the self-centred perception, which many older generations seem to unfairly attribute to Generation Y.
Many young Generation Y’s have been labelled as ‘the boomerang generation’; as crippling student debts before they even reach adulthood and rising house prices have forced these youngsters off the property ladder altogether. Resigned and with no other option but to move back in with their parents after university, although this age group makes up the majority of the workforce, for most, ‘grown up’ actions such as buying their own property and starting a family are being postponed until they are well into their 30’s; making them much later bloomers into ‘adult life’ then their own parents and grandparents.



The Office of 2000

As Generation Y began to take over as the majority age group in the workforce in the early 2000’s, many of their older contemporary’s complained that they did not respect the traditions and hierarchy which had been previously established.
Actually, this probably wasn’t the case. Thanks to their looser upbringing (being allowed to voice their own thoughts and make decisions) Gen Y’s simply entered the workplace with vastly different expectations than their older colleagues.

College students internet computer addiction sitting bench outside campus summerGeneration Y workers have high demands and expectations of themselves. They want to be the best and thrive on professional development opportunities. Quick to become personally invested in the company, they are hard workers but can sometimes be impatient and expect to see the fruits of their labour quickly. It is important for this generation to understand exactly what their individual contribution provides to the bigger picture of the company and they will quickly become despondent if they can’t see a measurable impact from their work.

Feedback is of the utmost importance to Generation Y. They exist in a world of instant acknowledgement and interaction and love the chance to voice their opinions. They hope for regular comment and feedback on their work, and as such, are some of the best people to successfully enrol into mentoring programs when they first start at a new place of work. Where Baby Boomers enjoy being set tasks and left to get on, this younger group prefer to question, engage, update and adapt throughout, increasing the chance of getting the work done right first time, but still being able to learn from mistakes.


Motivating Generation Y

Generation Y is not hugely motivated by finances and a large wage. Unlikely to be content with doing anything too repetitive as a job, which didn’t allow them to express their creativity, a recent survey showed the half of this generation would ‘rather have no job than a job they hate.’ So it’s important to make sure that you offer the right kind of work environment to keep this generation motivated through other means.

By offering short, changeable and fast tasks, you will keep your Gen Y workers happy; as a long attention span is not normally an attribute of this age group. By recognising where their skills lie, you can help expand these into valuable contributions to our company’s output.

Likely to be one of the quickest learners in your workforce, challenging Gen Y to learn new technologies or programmes and allowing them to train others is a smart move. This generation relish the opportunity to prove they have the skills and personality to manage others. By resting responsibility with them, Generation Y feels trusted and that they are a valued member of your team.


The New Age Employee

Learning about your Generation Y employee’s as people can be a huge motivator. For this generation particularly, the work/life balance is very blurred. They see less definition between the smart and casual dress sense and this translates to their work ethic. Offering flexibility in terms of work or lunch hours will be a great way of getting the best from this group. Never ones to conform to the 9 to 5 ideals, Generation Y are usually happier to work longer hours, so long as ‘me time’ has been factored in at work. A staggering 70% of Generation Y said that enough ‘me time’ was an important aspect of their working life when recently surveyed. This could be achieved by a ‘time out zone’ or by allowing workers use of free wifi in the office, or having a looser mobile phone policy. The chances are that small changes like these will make a noticeable difference to this generation.


This generation is one of the biggest listeners and will absorb and reflect their environment. By making sure this is a positive one, where opinions can be voiced without fear of rebuke, and understanding that your Generation Y worker has very different wants and needs from previous generations, will leave you with a highly digitally capable, productive and motivated workforce.


<< Back to Generation X


Onwards to Generation Z >>

John Sylvester

John is responsible for the motivation division of p&mm ltd and a Director on the board of the IPM. Specialising in developing, implementing and directing many large scale staff motivation, recognition and employee communications programmes.
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