My Generation

My Generation
February 24, 2012 Kaz Scott

On Tuesday night I took part in PRIA’s My Generation event representing Gen Y in a panel discussion about how agencies can close the gap between the bosses (baby boomers and Gen X) and the employees (Gen Y).

The premise of the discussion was to look at the relationship between us as Gen Y’s and our bosses or vice a versa and to the dig through the things that divide us and bust a few myths.

Why does the industry need to care about working with Gen Y? Because there are 4.5 million of us born between 1978 and 1994 and we are dominating the emerging workforce. And PR is one of the industries where it’s even harder to escape us.  To put it in perspective, 76 per cent of Ogilvy PR’s current employees are Gen Y’s.

We are the most labelled generation ever and the discussion kicked-off with a few of those labels being thrown around. The bosses described us as selfish and always thinking ‘what’s in it for me’, only caring about more money and job titles, and not being able to listen as we are constantly checking our phones or updating our statuses.

While the stereotypes were being called out in the discussion it soon became clear that in order to close the gap between bosses and employees you can’t label us with one big brushstroke.

Gen Y spans almost 20 years so it’s not sensible to consider this a target audience.  Bosses should acknowledge life stages, career stages, professional needs, socio-economic differences when trying to motivate staff.

As employees we have a desire for customisation which I don’t think is unique to our generation. People of all ages want to know they can walk into a new job and carve out their own opportunities if they do well and are loyal to the company. It’s more about understanding expectations.

We were asked what the ‘shiny’ things beyond salary were that attract us to a new job or keep us satisfied in a current one. According to 2011 McCrindle Research one of the top priorities for Gen Y’s when looking for an employer is a “great culture”. And I agree with this. We come to work at least 40 hours a week so it’s important that we enjoy being here each day and I think the people we work with play a huge role in that. All the Gen Y’s in the room acknowledge the importance of great mentors in keeping us satisfied in a job.

Training also came out as being important to us. We like to feel like it is a mutually beneficial relationship, Gen Y want something back and training and development shows that the agency is willing to invest in us. I know I always walk out of a great training session feeling reinvigorated and and grateful that I work for an agency that offers inspiring training.

The discussion drew to a close with the topic of loyalty. According to McCrindle Research on average Gen Y’s spend two years with an employer versus the national average of four years. The bosses asked us what keeps us loyal to an agency.  As we tend to get bored easily it’s important to be presented with new challenges and we need to be able to see a future for ourselves at the company. Being rewarded for being loyal doesn’t hurt either. I just had my three year anniversary at Ogilvy PR and being rewarded with three extra days of Loyalty Leave is a nice little perk. It makes a difference.

The key takeout of the discussion wasn’t anything ground-breaking. Essentially not that much has changed. As a generation we might be labelled more than past generations, but at the end of the day the same fundamentals of great management and leadership remain.

By Emily Birks.