Work smarter, not harder: Understanding Generation Y’s work ethic

Generation Y has by some been perceived as being entitled, which has affected how people view their work ethic. But how can it be a bad thing to work smarter and not harder? In this article, you learn more about Generation Y and how their upbringing has affected their work ethic. This is based on frequent themes and most commonly found characteristics within Generation Y.

Christina Højgaard Haversen

29. November 2019 · 7 min reading

A word about Generation Y

Generation Y is typically believed to be born around 1980-1995. They have grown up with technology changing into an everyday part of their lives as the digital era rapidly emerged. This created even more possibilities for the young generation. According to Rasmus Lindgaard, Team Leader for Insight at CompanYoung, this meant that the generation would not necessarily need to follow in their parents’ footsteps.

This generation is also commonly seen as more self-confident, as they have grown up in an appreciative culture where they’ve gotten constant approval.. In this case, what might be perceived as entitlement stemming from approval is simply Generation Y seeking feedback for their work. This is why it is important for potential employers to understand the importance of feedback for Generation Y.

Work ethic in Generation Y

Work ethic traditionally concerns how a person feels about their job or career but also how one performs their job. Because Generation Y has grown up in a world where technology has been ever evolving, they have found ways in which to be more effective by using the available technology. As a result, they have been perceived as lazy and lacking in work ethic. In truth, they have found a way to perform their tasks even more efficiently, which gives them a work-life balance.

Even though it can be argued that Generation Y’s work ethics is expressed in a different manner than the older generations’, Generation Y has a strong work ethic. For example Generation Y’s work ethic is neither portrayed in a 9-to-5 job nor how much time they spend at their office desk. Instead it is shown in how Generation Y chooses to work smarter, not harder. In this case, Generation Y works better when they have flexible hours they can make the most of.

Generation Y also wants time to engage in other activities outside their job. This includes vacations in which Generation Y can travel, pursue personal interests, etc. In this case, the opportunity to seek out adventures will be of great value to them. That’s why it’s important for organisations to understand that Generation Y needs this kind of work-life balance.

In regard to how Generation Y performs their job, a study about Generation Y’s behaviour at the workplace showed that they also value teamwork and the ability to multitask. In this case, multitasking is shown in how they use technology to handle numerous tasks at once, making them more efficient. This also relates to teamwork as Generation Y see teamwork as a way to finish tasks faster and better. The latter relates to how Generation Y sees teamwork as a way of gaining more knowledge through collaboration. Still, Generation Y can also work individually on whatever task they are given. This just goes to show that Generation Y can be flexible in not only their hours but also how they perform their job.

With all these characteristics of Generation Y outlined, organisations need to understand that a different work ethic does not necessarily equate to a bad work ethic.

What can you do?

In order to retain employees from Generation Y, the job has to be flexible in both hours and type. A plus would be for you to implement the newest technology for Generation Y to use in their day-to-day tasks. This will make them even more efficient. It also needs to be ever challenging and to be more than just a means of earning money: It has to boost their perceived quality of life. Thereby, the values within the organisation will be crucial to Generation Y. If these criteria are not fulfilled, people from Generation Y will jump to another job that challenges them more.

In the field of generation research, you will have to acknowledge the fact that you cannot necessarily generalise an entire generation. In this case, the characteristics are subject to change, as the field of generation research is ever expanding.

At CompanYoung, we pride ourselves in having extensive knowledge about young people and the generations to which they belong. Therefore, we know how to best implement knowledge and data about the generations. Contact us if you want to implement knowledge about Generation Y in your business, its strategies and its management of employees.

Sign up for our newsletter

Join over 2,000 others in HR and administration by signing up for our newsletter, where we focus on the next generation and their education and career choices.

Sign up here