Generation Y or Y Not

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Sequel Naturals President Charles Chang doesn't go out of his way to look for and hire Generation Y employees, but he's glad his company is full of mostly under-30 workers.

They're creative, tied to technology, can multi-task and want to help build his health-food products company while growing in their careers, Chang said in a telephone interview with AOL Jobs. They're also hard workers who want to know where they stand in a company and they're not lazy, as some people believe.

"We find them a really enjoyable group and a lot of fun," Chang said. "They're really looking for adventure."

Most of his employees are from Gen Y, generally defined as the 70 million Americans born from 1977 to 2002, although narrower definitions put the generation at being born between 1978 and 1989. Generation X was born from 1961 to 1981. Twenty-five of 30 of Chang's sales and marketing team is 25 or younger, and are generally more creative than older workers, he said.

What's so great about them

So how does Chang, 39, go after and keep this demographic working for him? Here are some of the characteristics of Generation Y and strategies that his 9-year-old company uses to catch and keep them:

  1. Creativity

    "We find in general that younger thinking people fit in better in sales and marketing," Chang said. "Over time, you become more set in your ways, right?" To foster that, Sequel has collaborative work groups, which workers from this age group enjoy and crave.

  2. Constant feedback

    Chang said his workers are constantly seeking feedback on how they're doing and how what they're doing relates to the company. He said he's happy to provide such feedback, and gives weekly team progress reports to update workers on how the company is doing.

  3. Incentives

    Profit sharing is tied to performance at the company. Many Gen Y workers want it this way and don't want to be just working at a company like drones without having a stake in their work.

  4. Interesting perks

    The free food from the company kitchen is popular, as well as health benefits offered as a chunk of money to spend however the employee thinks best. Since many of his workers are young and healthy, instead of spending it on prescription drugs, for example, they'll spend it on massages and therapeutic care

  5. Flexible work hours

    Gen Y workers who are out late at night partying may need to come into work a little later some days, and such hours keep them interested in their job.

  6. Growing company energy

    Gen Y workers want to be involved in a company that has as much energy as they do. If they see that a company is growing and moving forward, they'll want to be a part of that, Chang said.

What's not so great

But not everyone is perfect, and neither is every generation. The sense of entitlement that some Gen Ys have is a negative stereotype that Chang said he's witnessed in his workplace kitchen when young employees don't clean up after themselves, expecting someone to clean up after them like their parents did at home.

Here are some other negative perceptions of the Gen Y workforce:

  1. Poor work ethic

    Life is more important than work to many Gen Y workers, giving the perception that they don't care about their job. Some entry-level jobs may require young workers to put in long hours, but those workers believe that such time may not be the most productive.

  2. Little respect for authority

    This perception comes out through being outspoken and questioning everything.

  3. No loyalty to employers

    Being raised during a period of downsizing leaves many Gen Y workers feeling that rather than experience getting fired, they start their own businesses. It's sort of an "I'll dump you before you dump me" attitude.

  4. Short attention spans

    They're accustomed to so much rapid stimulation they have a hard time focusing on any one thing for a longer time. They're easily distracted by whatever is new and hot.

Where they fit in

Everyone benefits from recognizing that different generations have different assets and drawbacks in the workplace. Chang's company, for example, is happy to hire Gen Y, but wants to have all ages contributing. Not all departments are predominantly 25 and younger. Looking at the company as a whole, the average age is 33, which is reflected most in the financial department. The majority of the workers are in their late 20s, with the management team having an average age of 36.

Chang said he's glad to have older workers in finance, where a conservative approach is welcome. "Do you want a creative accountant? I don't know," he said.

Still, Chang said, "We prefer a younger employee because we are growing so fast, and the creativity and enthusiasm of younger workers helps that."

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