10 Ways Generation Y Will Change the Workplace

Published by Ryan Healy on May 23rd, 2008 on Employee Evolution

There's no doubt that Generation Y will fundamentally change corporate America. It's already started. Managing Gen Y is the hot topic among consultants, Human Resource executives and talent management professionals. For a Gen Yer like me, this is great news.

We have a voice, and we have the ear of the decision makers. Not bad for a group of lazy, entitled, twentysomethings. We've learned the importance of balancing work and life from our overworked parents, and we've watched our older siblings and cousins struggle with their baby boomer bosses who refuse to retire. Now we're primed to change the workplace for the better. Here's how we'll do it.

1. We'll Hold Only Productive Meetings
Meetings are important, sometimes. A good meeting will pull everyone to the same page while motivating them to get the work done. It's rare when that should take more than 30 minutes. Efficiency is the name of the game with Gen Y. We know that a drawn out meeting really means, "we have no idea what we're doing," and these time suckers actually halt productivity and stifle creativity, the qualities that they were supposed to encourage. As soon as Gen Y is running the show, watch wasted meeting time drop dramatically.
2. We'll Shorten the Work Day
The work day is eight hours. Or so they say. A real work day for most of us, if you include the commute, lunch, breaks and maybe dinner, is at least 10 hours. But how many hours of the day are actually spent doing real work? I would guess about half. To truly balance work and life, you cannot mess around and waste time at the office. Gen Y knows this. We're
productivity machines; we will figure out how to get as much done in six to seven hours as the average boomer does with his eight.
3. We'll Bring Back the Administrative Assistants
Back in the day, nearly everyone had a secretary. These days, you have to be a CEO or high level executive for a Fortune 500 company to have an assistant. Sure, this saves the company a ton, but Generation Y won't stand for it much longer. We recognize the value of time. Two extra hours per day not filing papers and mailing checks adds up to over 500 extra hours per year that we can spend with family and friends. Even if it comes out of our own pocket, Gen Y will cough up the extra dough to get a part time or virtual assistant.

4. We'll Redefine Retirement
Retirement is dead. It's dead for a number of reasons, including the issues with social security and middle class America's inability to save any money. But Gen Y will figure out how to save money to retire–
we're already demanding 401K's and excellent benefits. However, we will re-invent retirement by taking multiple mini retirements instead of calling it quits a few years before its time to croak. Maybe in our late twenties we'll take a few months just to travel the world. Then, as we approach parenthood and our kids grow up, we'll take a year off to enjoy time with our family. Then we'll return to work, refreshed and ready to go. When we hit 65, it will be the new 45 and we'll have a solid 15 to 20 years left before we take our final, very brief, mini retirement.
5. We'll Find Real Mentors
Gen Y is obsessed with career development. We understand the
importance of great mentors and we seek them out. The problem is that many older workers weren't effectively mentored and they don't always know how to mentor Gen Y. When it's Gen Y's turn to be senior mentors, we'll know how. As we seek mentors now we'll learn what works and what doesn't. And from the time we enter the workforce until the time we're senior employees, the smartest Gen Yers will figure out how to mentor up. We will teach our older co-workers about new technologies and the power of online communities, and they will respond kindly by guiding us through the insane office politics that exist everywhere.
6. We'll Restore Respect to the HR Department
Ten years ago, human resources got no respect. Today, companies are just beginning to see the importance. Gen Y recognizes that people make the company successful. Maybe it's not tangible and maybe it's not easy to see the direct ROI on keeping people happy, but happy people create successful organizations. All you need to do is
take a look at Google, the company that's quickly taking over the world, to see that happy people are successful people and successful people make a lot of money for themselves, and for the company. HR is not a cost center, its vital to the bottom line.
7. We'll Promote Based on Emotional Intelligence

For some reason, companies assume that when you pay your dues and you know the business, you can be a manager. They're wrong. The truth is that seniority does not make a good manager. People skills make a good manager. By the time Gen Y is running the world, we will be smart enough to promote people to managers because they can manage, not because they've worked for ten years. For managers, personal work must come a distant second to developing employees both personally and professionally. If you can't help others, you don't deserve a promotion to manager and you will be left behind.
8. We'll Continue to Value What Our Parents Have to Offer
Sure, Gen Xers can laugh about it now, but Gen Yers respect our parents, and our parents are interested in every part of our lives, even when we're 30. Don't be surprised to see Gen Y employees giving their parents a tour of the office and calling up mom and dad for a little advice on their lunch break. It's not about being babied or refusing to grow up, it's about a level of mutual respect that Gen Y has for our parents and our parents have for us. My mother is coming to visit in a couple weeks, and guess what our plan for the day is? A tour of the office and a couple hours of work for each of us before we go out and do the tourist thing.

9. We'll Enjoy Higher Starting Salaries

Sure, Gen Y is interested in volunteering, putting a halt to global warming and all that other good stuff, but we're not our idealist parents. We watched our parents get laid off and we know that companies look out for themselves, so we do the same. Gen Yers will gladly accept a higher starting salary than promises of raises and promotions that we may never see. Additionally, all we have to do is go to or some other site to find out what the average starting salary is. Then we will ask for more, and we'll probably get it, because we know we can get it elsewhere if your company won't give it to us.
10. We'll Re-invent the Performance Review
Semi-annual or annual performance reviews do not work. Gen Y wants constant feedback. If we're only at a company for two years, we cannot wait for our one year review to find out how we're doing. Gen Y will invent the on-the-spot performance review. The smartest companies will train their managers in giving frequent feedback, and the companies that don't will get a quick reality check when their Gen Y employees demand them. Spot reviews lead to consistent improvement, and consistent improvement is
what truly matters to Generation Y.


  1. I do agree that workers nowadays tend to look out more for themselves. I don't think that tendency is only found in Generation Y. Everyone has learned that when push comes to shove, companies will do what is best for their bottom line. Of course, there are exceptions to this rule, organizations that value and reward loyalty.

  2. Great information, thanks for sharing about it.