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Decoding Gen ‘Y’

Decoding Gen ‘Y’ With 65 % of its population under the age of 35, India today boasts of one of the largest available workforces in the world. This is narrating a commanding demographic truth. The Team Lease Indian Labour Report of 2009 estimated that 300 million people will enter the labour force by 2025, and that, by then, 25 % of the world’s skilled workers will be Indians. Known as the ‘Nexters’, they are the youngest associates of workforces globally. Businesses have realised that the key to driving Return on Investment is to understand and leverage the Gen Y behaviour, harnessing their latent talent to propel the growth story. Gen Y is forcing businesses to re-think their purpose, practices and HR polices. This paper attempts to decode the behavioural characteristics and organisational expectations of Generation Y. The paper also suggests strategies to recruit, retain and manage the career aspirations of Generation Y, thus contributing to the effective Human Capital Management


Gen Y, Human Capital Management

Decoding Gen ‘Y’: The Oxford Dictionary defines generations as “all of the people born and living at about the same time, regarded collectively.” Although there is no consensus as regards the exact birth dates that define each generation, they are generally broken into four distinct groups:

  • The Traditionalists - Born between 1927 and 1945
  • The Baby Boomers - Born between 1946 and 1964
  • Generation X – Born between 1965 and the early 1980s
  • Generation Y - Born between 1978-1995

The Gen Y population in India is 25.47% of the world population (Indian Population Bureau, 2009). Generation Y is also known as the ‘Nexters’. They are the youngest associates of work forces globally. They are forcing businesses to re-think their purpose and practices. Generation Y is recognised as marching into the workplace, like unruly and energetic guests, into a stifling party and shocking the hosts and the guests, who are already there. They bring along with them extra-large baggage, in the form of multiple digital technologies, their social networks, their tech- savvy culture, new ways of contemplating and new managerial forms. Gen Y will be the largest component of the workforce in the coming years and hence it’s imperative to understand them, so as to manage them better and hence, creative innovations in Human Capital Management are a necessity.

Research Objective: Though research has been undertaken by various experts on this subject, there is a lack of significant research on HR management, related to India’s Generation Y. Thus, this conceptual study is undertaken with the following objectives:

  • To study the behavioural characteristics and organisational expectations of Generation Y and
  • To suggest strategies to recruit, retain and manage the career aspirations of Generation

Research Methodology: This is a conceptual paper, based on the secondary data available, in books, magazines and research papers. The data is mainly collected from secondary sources, which include articles published in journals, research papers, published interviews of professionals in newspapers, magazines and websites of different companies.

Literature Review: Gen Y - Behavioural Characteristics: As represented in a white paper by A Three Sixty publication, titled, ‘New-Gen workers in India & China: Reshaping their workplaces & the world’, Gen Y in India bring the following behaviour to the work places: they are open-minded and positive, open to ideas and new possibilities, optimistic about their work and the future, confident, independent, ambitious and competitive, have the desire and drive for entrepreneurship and making a difference and show a keen sense of competition, both regional and global . They take a deep interest and pride in owning state-of-the-art technology and rely on instant gratification. They will, in the future, place a high premium on job security and they apparently are currently job-hopping. Generation Y is a highly sociable group that uses social media, cell phones, and the internet, to keep in touch with their friends, families and colleagues. Because of their social nature, this generation typically enjoys teamwork and wants to feel like a valued member of the organisation, they work for. Although they bring energy and innovation to the workplace, the Generation Y is challenging to manage.

Gen Y - Organizational Expectations: As mentioned in the survey, conducted by Oxygenz (2010), for the Generation Y, three important factors in their life are “Opportunities for Learning”, “Quality of Life” and “Work Colleagues”. Their creativity and productivity is triggered by three major factors: “the people around them”, their colleagues and collaborators; “the ambience and atmosphere” in the workplace, reflected through the design, layout and facilities, but also the people; and, “the technology” they are provided with. Gen Y, is an environmentally friendly workforce and is looking for a green deal at work. Being Green – Working Green – Living Green is on the agenda. They favour work places that allow individuals and teams to collaborate and engage with each other (Global Workplace Innovations 2010). They can be characterised as entrepreneurial and self-regulating; digitally savvy; disallowing micromanagement; and valuing empowerment, challenge, and excitement (Izzzo, 2002). Job jumping every two years, in search of greater compensation or purposeful work, is the norm, due to a boundary-less view of career and an awareness of their sought-after technological expertise (Zemke, Raines, & Filipczak, 2000). Security is valued by younger workers, but is defined as career security, whereby they build portfolios of transferable skills, permitting them to change jobs (Lancaster & Stillman, 2002; Hira, 2007). Cited in the literature are low levels of trust and loyalty to corporate cultures, attributed to intense media scrutiny of corporations, tainted with scandal (Wolburg & Pokrywczynski, 2001) and having witnessed several instances of organisational downsizing (Loughlin & Barling, 2001). Gen Y brings an impressive portfolio of academic credentials and requisite skills in technology to the workplace, along with lofty expectations for fast-track promotion, raises, perks, independence, flexible work arrangements, a need for fun (Zemke, 2001) and meaningful work that adds value to the organisation’s strategic direction (Rekar Munro, 2008). They expect continuous recognition and daily feedback (Hastings, 2008). Given their pressing sense of immediacy and impatience, Gen Y is unlikely to be enticed by promises of distant pay raises and promotions (Lancaster & Stillman, 2002). Due to their diverse perspectives, motivations, attitudes and needs of this generation, the dynamics of managing them also would be distinctly different. A major challenge, which organisations now face, is how to attract, engage, and retain Gen Y, which is markedly different from the previous generations, in their workplace needs, expectations and aspirations.

HRM Strategies for Gen Y: Generation Y has been the most pampered and indulged generation. Their views on life and work are different from many others; and if employers want to recruit, retain and motivate these employees, their strategies, policies and procedures will have to change.

Recruitment: Gen Y is also known as ‘digital natives’. Growing up with the internet and various technological gadgets, this generation is also the most tech-savvy and wired (or perhaps wirelessly connected) cohort. Organisations that are the most successful in hiring young workers use high-level marketing tactics that include high-end company videos, with good graphics, great editing and an exciting story line, based on a fast track road to success. Creating easy online job applications is vital for Gen Y. These candidates expect an online application process that will let them submit their information at the click of a button. This ease of use further establishes a positive candidate experience. Gamification amplifies the desire to engage, by appealing to behavioural and psychological propensities, which already exist in Gen Y. Selections through social and game technologies for recruitment have become very effective. Successful recruiters understand the "I want it all now" mentality of Gen Y and focus on signing bonuses, perks and instant rewards, rather than long-term opportunity.

Retention: The Generation Y is demanding, as a right, a new reality from work. One of the key factors in retaining younger workers is creating an appealing work environment. Gen Y is easily lured by what looks modern, new and fun. Generation Y is a sporty and social generation and there is a high demand for sport and social facilities on site. Having well-equipped break rooms (some of which include video games, gym, indoor game options) and the best technology you can afford have proven to make a big difference, in keeping younger workers in your domain. Gen Y expects competitive salaries. One reason being: Gen Y has more debt (both student loans and credit cards) than any previous generation. Along with professional and personal growth opportunities, Gen Y appreciates employers that sponsor higher education, offer medical insurance, foreign postings and other growth opportunities.

They appreciate clear direction, demand immediate feedback on performance, expect to be consulted and included in management decisions and demand constant intellectual challenge. They expect the organisations to be accommodating, both in terms of having flexible working hours and trusting them to work from home. Money is important to them, but maintaining a work-life balance outranks money. Organisational leaders have to earn their loyalty and respect. Unlike Gen X, Gen Y may not automatically be loyal to leaders, just because those leaders are in charge or have a designated authority.

Managing career aspirations: Studies of Gen Y members about their career aspirations regularly find that work-life flexibility and meaningful work are the two things that constantly top the list. A recent study shows that Gen Yers are loyal to their jobs but not organisations. This set seeks learning at work, along with the challenges and career progression at a super fast pace, as their pre-decided retirement age is 40 years, in their minds.

Gen Yers have noble ambitions and are hungry to change the world. Social entrepreneurship offers them a great outlet to do so. It simply resonates with some of the typical Gen Y values that characterise this generation: collaboration; accessibility; sustainability; globally networked; self-expression. Summing up, Gen Yers are impatient, but also assume that they can do anything, they set their mind to.

Conclusion: Organisations that utilise social media, to build brand awareness, through videos, pictures, stories, give applicants an insight into their organisational culture. This helps connect, attract and engage them through the process. An easy online job application format, which reflects the values and desires, is vital for Gen Y. Utilising applicant tracking software makes it easier for organisations to communicate with candidates, keeping them informed and involved, throughout the hiring process, enabling better candidate relationships. The recruiting and hiring processes must be clear, explicable and engaging, to create a positive candidate experience.

They have little interest in hierarchy and are not impressed, by the titles and positions, within the traditional pyramid structure. Good facilities, latest technology, flexibility, continuous feedback, green working environment, intrapreneurship, social entrepreneurship, transparency, mutual accountability, challenging jobs and passion attracts them. Gen Y employees pursue their interests with a remarkable combination of intensity, focus, and enjoyment. Their preferred way of living goes beyond pursing an ‘interest’ or ‘getting involved’. They want to dig deep and make the most of whatever it is they’re working on or playing at.

Every business must understand that Gen Y is a growing part of their customer base and is increasingly influential. In fact, they are already the primary trend setters in technology and other key markets. Businesses need Gen Y workers to help design and deliver compelling products and services. Gen Y has a lot to offer, as employees too. They are confident, connected, optimistic, entrepreneurial and tech savvy. Comprehending how to attract, manage and retain the next generation of workers is a complex challenge. But it’s a challenge that companies simply can’t afford to disregard. Gen Y is the future and companies will not be able to survive without them. Hence organisations, who harness these capabilities sooner, will get a bigger lead over their competition.


  • A three sixty publication ‘Generation Y India & China’, November 2010, gen-workers-in-india-china-reshaping-their-workplaces-the-world/
  • Gabe Zicherman (27th January, 2013) “Beyond the hype: 5 ways that big companies are using gamification”
  • Gen Y in India by Accenture, 2010
  • Giles Hutchins & Martina Mangelsdorf (21st December, 2012) “Social Entrepreneurship and Gen Y - A Match made in Heaven?”
  • Johnson Controls (2010), “Generation Y and the workplace”, Johnson Controls Global WorkPlace Innovation (GWi),
  • Kyla Miller (26th March, 2013) “Who we are and how you can best lead us” PCT Market Leadership,
  • Parul Saxena, Rajiv Jain (July 2012), “Managing Career Aspirations of Gen Y at work place”, International Journal of Advanced Research in Computer Science and Software Engineering,
  • Rebecca McNeil (7th February, 2013) “How 3 principles of storytelling apply to Recruiting”,
  • “Understanding Indian Gen - Y aspirations in the workplace” - IKYA,

Authored by

Dr. Farida Virani

HR News


Time to leave?

How do I know it’s time for me to go?- Times Ascent – By Adil Malia, Group president, HR, Essar

Corporate professionals are blessed with the divine insight that enables them to know for others when it is time for them to leave. However, when it comes to themselves, they are cursed by a state of self-doubt, which blocks their decision: ‘To-go or not-to-go’

It’s time to go when your presence is not acknowledged by your manager, when your opinions are not sought, when your increments are freezed, there is a change in your strategic responsibilities etc.

However when an employee is living in the glory of his past achievements, he is unable to decode these signals due to ‘dusk blindness’. Often employees adopt an ‘Approach Avoidance Conflict’ subliminally avoiding these ‘go’ signals. ’This too shall pass’ as a life philosophy when subscribed, leads to a re-bouncing effect on receptivity of the signals.

The rise of the INTROVERT - ET ascent, 22nd July 2014

Did you know that Bill Gates is an introvert? Contrary to popular perception, introverts are equipped with skills that could give them an edge over an extrovert too, under a few circumstances.

Every employee has a distinctive personality. While some are outgoing and assertive, some are shy and prefer to stay out of the limelight. These shy and reserved employees are perceived to be lacking in ambition by the employers.

An employee can shake off his shy reputation at work by encouraging himself to be a part of discussion forums and similar other platforms. On the contrary organizations can help these introverts to reach their potential by creating an introvert-friendly work environment. An introvert would feel comfortable and shine in an organization that is truly inclusive, values performance and does not differentiate on the grounds of one’s personality. By understanding their personality type and needs, managers can harmonize those strengths and successfully encourage them to be their best selves.

Aug 08 2014 : The Economic Times (Mumbai)

Google to Recruit through Coding Competitions - DEVINA SENGUPTA

Google India has changed the way it recruits from engineering colleges, trashing paperbased tests in favour of Google Jams or coding competitions. Candidates will now have to crack coding puzzles online to clear the first few rounds of the placement tests at the coveted firm. Code jams are a popular method of hiring globally. Google too has conducted them in India, but only as part of its global recruitment process.“ It has proved effective in candidate selection before the interview stage,“ says a company official who does not wish to be named.

Authored by

Dr. Farida Virani

Tags: MET Institute of Management