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Gen Y Myth-Busting: Report Explodes Conventional Wisdom

Here on Entry-Level Rebel we're interested in young people and their careers, and so keep up-to-date with all the latest research and commentary on how so-called Gen Y is affecting the workplace. And there is a lot of it. From claims that Gen Y isn't motivated much by money to beliefs that these "digital natives" are more attuned to tech, ideas about how the latest crop of employees to enter office life are different abound.

But maybe those ideas are simply wrong. That's what a recent report from British consultancy JBA is claiming. They studied 24,500 staff members hired within the last two years by five large organizations in 19 countries and concluded that much of the accepted wisdom on Gen Y is hogwash.

Crazy for Work-Life Balance and Flexible Working?
Surveys have previously found that Gen Y value work-life balance above nearly all other job characteristics, while personal anecdotes of working with Gen Y often focus on their dislike of a strict nine-to-five in favor of a looser, always-on connection with their workplaces. Not so, says JBA, which found, "younger staff expressed 15-20 percent less desire than their older colleagues to choose their time and place to work. In fact, they actively seek out every opportunity to be in the office in the closest proximity to their boss."

What could explain this finding? One possibility is that Gen Y is still young and without the family commitments that make flexible working so valuable to parents or those taking care of ailing relatives. Or Gen Y could simply be stuck like glue to their bosses because they're early in their careers and feel this is necessary to climb the ladder. Whatever the cause, before you revolutionize your firm's flex work policy to suit Gen Y, do some digging to find out what they really want.

Perpetually Plugged In?
This is the Facebook Generation, right? According to conventional wisdom, social networking-addicted young people want to incorporate social tools into every aspect of their work lives, using them to communicate with colleagues and recruiters. Not so fast, says JBA:

The widely held perceived wisdom that Gen Y are forever demanding new technologies and pushing the boundaries on wider intellectual connections and stimuli is a myth... We found that younger hires are more accepting of the available equipment â€" by anything up to 20 points â€" than their older peers.
This finding, at least, isn't totally without precedent. Earlier this year consultancy Decode also found that Gen Y actually aren't that excited about using social media tools at work, with just 33 percent of young people they spoke to happy to hear from recruiters via social media and about the same percentage insisting employers allow social media access at work.

The idea that all the hullabaloo surrounding Gen Y might be a bit overblown in general isn't new to BNET. Steve Tobak has called out stereotyping generations as bad management on his blog, while Thomas A. Stewart set about exploding the notion that Gen Y was so special in a post with the combative title of "Who Gives a Hoot About Gen Y?" Now, thanks to JBA, they have more empirical ammunition for their arguments.

All in all, the takeaway is probably not to rush into changes to cater to young folks without actually asking young folks what they want. "Many employers are planning radical changes towards 'leaner' working arrangements and less use of formal offices on the assumption that this will be appealing to younger hires. However in the light of this study, such plans will need careful consideration into how they might be realized," JBA report author John Blackwell told Management Issues.

Read More on BNET:

(Image courtesy of Flickr user richard winchell, CC 2.0)
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