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Managing Gen Y at the workplace

Most of Indias high-potential employees (64%) and middle managers (55%) are Generation Y"born between 1980 and 1989. They comprise a larger share of the workforce in Asia than elsewhere. Clearly, the future of Indian business rests on its ability to engage this generation. Yet a Corporate Executive Board Asia Labor Market Survey' shows they can be an HR directors nightmare, mature enough to play crucial roles in an organization but more inclined to leave than any other generation. Alienating them can result in crippling vacancies. As managers struggle to tailor practices to attract and motivate them, research shows two powerful retention tools can be explicit career paths and innovation at the workplace. Here we dispel six myths about Gen Y, and present realistic and cost-effective approaches to attract and motivate this cohort of future leaders. A Mint-Corporate Executive Board initiative on exploring management trends.
Reality Facts Action steps
Gen Y Gen X Baby boomers Gen X, Gen Y, and baby boomers Gen X and baby boomers Gen X and Gen Y


Gen Y hiring requires a cool, youthful employment brand

Gen Y is attracted to organizations for the same reason as employees from other generations. CEB research shows that in India, seven of the top 10 preferences for joining an employer are common across generations. Gen Y stands out only in its strong preference for innovation in the workplace.


Technology level Location Work-life balance Organization growth rate Compensation Stability Development opportunity Respect Future career opportunity Recognition


Gen Y is all about the money

Future career and development opportunities are more important for Gen Y employees to stay in an organization than compensation. Corporate Executive Board (CEB) research shows that in India, Gen Y employees who have a high intent to stay with their current organization are more likely to do so due to future career opportunities (80%) and development opportunities (70%) than compensation (61%).

Satisfaction levels of employees with high intent to stay, in India

Percentage of Gen Y employees with high intent to stay at an organization.
n=1,828 (Gen Y); 997 (Gen X); 204 (baby boomers)

Ethics Retirement benefits

Future career opportunities


Dont send mixed signals to candidates and employees by playing to generic Gen Y stereotypes. Instead, consistently communicate a universal employment brand that emphasizes the characteristics of your organization that appeal most strongly across generations.


Development opportunities




Gen Y employees are not team players

Gen Y employees are as generous as Gen X employees, and believe in assisting peers and volunteering for additional duties. CEB survey results show that most Gen Y employees (58%) proactively reach out to their peers to assist them during heavy workloads. Similarly, Gen Y employees do not hesitate to help their peers on a regular basis.


Avoid reactive (and often futile) compensation-based negotiations with departing employees by helping managers to critically analyse the development needs and career aspirations of their Gen Y staff. Development plans and explicit career paths are your most powerful tools to retain top Gen Y employees.

Willingness to help others, in India

Percentage of employees agreeing to volunteer for additional duties and helping peers
Gen Y Gen X Baby boomers


Gen Y wants more life in work-life balance

In India, baby boomers (born in 1946-64) are most focused on work-life balance, while Gen Y and Gen X (1965-79) employees are more willing to put in hours at the office than their peers in the US and Europe. CEBs analysis shows that in India, younger generations preferences about work-life balance are strikingly different from more mature economies. Attitudes do not converge globally until workers reach their late 50s.

65% 58% 56% 58% 56%


Preference for work-life balance by life stage



Volunteer for additional duties

Frequently help peers


Dont shy away from asking Gen Y employees to be involved inor even leadteam initiatives. Teamwork can be a powerful tool to accelerate skill development and strengthen professional networks within the organization.





35 40 45 Age of employee




n=3,496 (India); 3,270 (US); 2,238 (Europe)


Gen Y needs constant manager feedback

Structured feedback from performance reviews is more important than frequent day-to-day feedback in keeping Gen Y employees at an organization. CEB research shows that in India, formal feedback from performance reviews (55%) matters more than day-to-day feedback (41%) in making Gen Y employees more committed to the organization.

Design work-life balance programmes that cater to the individual needs of your employees rather than making generalizations by age group, keeping in mind that geography plays a stronger role in preferences than generational differences.


Gen Y is addicted to social media

Personal use of social media is highest for Gen Y, but professional use pales in comparison and barely differs across generations. CEB research indicates that only 18% of Gen Y employees are power users of social media for professional purposes, less than Gen X employees (19%). Across all generations the use of social media is significantly lower for professional use than it is for personal use.

Satisfaction with different types of feedback in India

Percentage of Gen Y employees with high intent to stay at an organization 55%


Professional versus personal use of social media in India

Percentage of employees who are power users. 63% 56% Professional use Personal use 49%

Performance reviews

Day-to-day feedback


19% 6% Gen Y Gen X Baby boomers

Equip your managers to provide specific and constructive performance reviews. Consistent day-to-day feedback throughout the year is valuable, but real loyalty is generated by explicitly linking feedback to performance objectives and development plans.

n= No. of respondents

n=1,828 (Gen Y); 997 (Gen X); 204 (baby boomers)

Illustrations by Shyamal Banerjee; graphics by Ahmed Raza Khan/Mint

When designing a social media strategy, consider context rather than generational differences. For professional purposes, expect limited sophistication and familiarity with new tools such as Yammer, even among Gen Y. Consumer tools such as Facebook are now widely used by all generations, but have limited business application.

The Six Myths series compiled by business advisory firm Corporate Executive Board Co. ( challenges conventional wisdom on how to address critical management priorities. Send your comments to
Source: Corporate Executive Board