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The Millennial (Gen Y) Generation’s View of Work and Identity: A New Dynamic

The Millennial (Gen Y), currently the youngest generation in the workforce, creates a new dynamic in the workplace.  Organizations consciously choosing to embrace the Millennial (Gen Y) perspective on identity and work will be the successful icons of the future. 


Work does not define who they are in life.  Why?  Many Millennial employees are still uncovering the essence of their identity.  They’re simply still developing into adults and work is only a part of that equation. Look deeper at the fundamental difference of how the generations view work as an element of their identity.  Boomers have always found their identity in the prestige of climbing the corporate ladder, almost unconsciously but certainly willingly. Millennials have watched their parents work 50-60 hours per week, get laid off, have little time for friends or even family, get divorced, have nice material items by spending more time in work and still not find life satisfaction. 


Therefore, they view work as a cog in the bigger wheel of life and are simply not seeing the pay off and are not tied to work in this fundamental way.  Work does not define them, rather, work is an activity not the only way to be valued and certainly does not define their identity.


This dynamic impacting organizations in profound ways causes the focus to be a generational one when in reality it is a developmental issue.  Organizations must align attraction, retention and development practices with their youngest employee’s developmental trajectory before the exodus of the Boomers reaches its peak. There are simply not enough individual contributors let alone leaders to fill the talent gap and to add fuel to the fire all organizations will be fighting for the same exceptional young talent.


Align your entry-level talent practices with these perspectives in mind:

  •  Many 20 something's are navigating to adulthood in your workplace
  •  Managers who have the skills and tools to be "developmental managers" will be the
     most successful in retaining and developing this segment of talent
  •  Organizations who see the value of retaining them in the organization over retaining them
     in a position will have far better retention rates than those who have linear career paths

Competition for talent is already a strategic business issue.  This generation is the key factor in any successful strategic talent initiative.

Terese Corey Blanck
Emerging Advantage Inc.



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