Thursday 10 July 2014

The A-Z of Generation Y

Recently we’ve seen several press articles on the tastes, working habits and culture of those categorised as ‘Generation Y’. Why all the fuss? Why should we turn our attention to this demanding demographic? At first glance, it just seems experts are advising we change working environments to play to their strengths, and, in many ways, protect businesses from Gen Y’s weaknesses.

Dave Baxter wrote an article in The Business Reporter, distributed by City AM, stating that Generation Y, generally considered those born between 1980 – 1990, are often described as "collaborative, workshy, digitally savvy and anti-authority”. These are, of course, generalisations, but looking around the City, each of these ‘Millennials’ (as they are otherwise known) that I spy undoubtedly demonstrates, at times, most of these characteristics. And the scary bit? In workplaces across the world they are starting to climb the career ladder.

This new workforce breed will undoubtedly affect how companies and leaders operate and manage their teams. Let’s consider what this could mean for employers in the communications industry…


The possibility for collaborative working methodologies is undoubtedly a positive. Working in silos would almost be an oxymoron for any natural-born communications professional. As new sources of information emerge and communications channels constantly evolve, resources need to be pooled to ensure optimal internal communications, in order to deliver the best quality of service to your clients. Collaboration in the workplace also improves the creativity of content, allowing more perspectives to shape the final product. This is essential when vying for column inches or coverage for smaller companies in an increasingly crowded marketplace.

Digitally Savvy

Last week, Morgan Stanley gave the green light to its Brokers to post self-authored content on firm-approved Twitter profiles. The majority of journalists are also active Twitter users. In fact, with hundreds of emails and calls a day, often the most responsive and standout way to get in contact is via the social media platform. If financial journalists and advisors are using it, surely the platform is perceived as influential? Could the content even influence a share price? If communications professionals have grown up using social media, tweeting an equity story is as natural as putting something down the RNS, or indeed arranging a night out. It’s probably therefore a good thing to have Millennials as members of the team


But let’s not tweet before we can talk. An anti-authoritarian attitude can be difficult to manage and, more importantly, to teach. But for Millennials, it’s more a case of a lack of awareness of authority. Due to the more regimented family lives of generations past, young people were taught, ‘only speak when you are spoken to’. However, due to the flexibility and fluidity of modern family units, relationships are more relaxed at home, which can often translate to the workplace. This modern mentality means that Generation Y simply do not feel constrained or restricted by authority, so are not afraid to voice opinions. Their creative and often well-educated minds are therefore freer to help shape a company’s strategy and business decisions. Maybe that’s not a bad thing?

At the end of the day, Generation Y is becoming a more senior and dominant demographic in the workplace. Surely it would be better to facilitate their preferences and habits in order to make the most of their strengths? A diversity of skills is an asset to any business. It can lead to the evolution of a new differentiator or USP.

But then again maybe I would say that?

I was born in 1990. Oh and workshy is just a rumour!

Stephanie Watson

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