Not too long ago, the generation gap meant parents didn’t understand why ripped jeans cost twice as much as regular ones or why every other word coming out of their child’s mouth was “like.” Now the gap means employers don’t understand why twentysomethings straight out of college expect a high salary and lots of vacation time.
Employees under the age of 29, also known as Generation Y, expect their employers to provide more benefits and other perks than their older counterparts, according to a new survey from CareerBuilder.com and Harris Interactive. Gen Y workers want better pay, a flexible work schedule and company-provided BlackBerrys and cell phones.
Eighty-seven percent of hiring managers and HR professionals say Gen Y exhibits a sense of entitlement that older generations don’t. But not all Gen Y-ers see it that way. Mark Treichel, a recent college graduate, says it’s more an expectation of give and take than a sense of entitlement.
“Employers expect entry-level employees to have substantial work experience, be top of their class, dress professionally, etcetera,” Treichel says. “Personally, I worked hard at two year-round internships while still going to school my last two years. I don't expect high pay and a BlackBerry, but I do expect to be compensated for the hard work I put in preparing for the position.”
Alison Bailin, 27, also believes her generation wants to see a significant return on years of education. “College expenses have skyrocketed, leaving many of us in debt,” says the account executive. “Many career fields require one year or more of a [usually] unpaid internship, so we are joining the work force with a year or more experience than many previous generations.”
Technology is largely responsible for the shift in expectations and employers’ willingness to adapt to them. Some of the world’s most visited Web sites, such as Facebook and YouTube, made their creators millionaires before their 30th birthdays. For some Gen Y-ers, this is ammunition when entering the work force.
“Companies desperately want to be a part of the Web 2.0/user-generated content, MySpace, YouTube phenomenon. Who better to guide that shift than Gen Y?” asks Matt Dornic, 26, president of the public relations firm 3 Dog Communications.
Dornic reminds employers that this generation of workers not only grew up during a technological revolution, they participated in it.
“We are a people that had cell phones in high school,” he says. “Of course we are going to expect to have the most up-to-date gadgets in order to compete in today’s sleepless digital market.”
Bailin agrees. “I think if other generations had such technologies as cell phones and BlackBerrys, they would work toward getting them financed through work as well.”
Bailin’s assessment emphasizes just how much her generation has incorporated technology into daily life. Forty-nine percent of employers cite Gen Y’s preference for e-mail or phone calls over face-to-face meetings as the biggest communication gap between Gen Y and co-workers.
So what are companies going to do about it?
Fifteen percent of employers reported modifying their policies in order to appease their Gen Y employees. Of those employers who made changes, 57 percent implemented more flexible work schedules and 33 percent created new recognition programs.
“As companies’ cultures evolve with each generation, you see all workers benefiting from a variety of viewpoints and work styles,” says Rosemary Haefner, vice president of human resources for CareerBuilder.com.
Just how much Gen Y-ers and their employers will accommodate one another has yet to be seen. One thing all workers, regardless of their age, should remember is that any new perks are available to everybody.