Generation Y – what do digital natives actually want?

Published on: 17 Aug 14:16

Millennials, digital natives, trophy kids…there are a lot of terms for describing the Generation Y (born 1980-1995). There are also way more studies about this generation than about the previous ones like the babyboomers (1950-1965) or the Generation X (1965-1980). These temporal classifications are not generally valid, but coincide with the fact that approximately every 15 years a generation changes slowly. But that doesn’t mean that everybody who’s born between 1980 and 1995 belongs to the Generation Y. Nevertheless, there are differences between the generations, certain trends about which this article talks. So what exactly is so special about the Generation Y?

Generation Y also means „Why“ – what should demonstrate that the millennials question everything: work, politics, famiiy and free time. Why should we live like our parents and grandparents? Why should we work 40 hours per week and only have 30 days of vacation? Why do we have to decide between children and career instead of choosing both? Why should we drive daily to work when we could actually work from home?

From babyboomer to trophy kid

This change of mindset is due to the education as well as the environment. The Baby Boomers grew up in the post-war period, the reason why material security was of great importance for them: Having a house, food, means of transport and an assured source of income. Work had a great value at that time which they passed to their children, the Generation X. Their strict upbringing led to resistance against parents and teachers in the 1960’s. Nevertheless, the majority of the Generation X took the proven path which guaranteed security and stability.

Unlike their predecessors, the Generation X didn’t put work ahead of other needs, for them it was only perceived as a means to an end and they were the first to request a work-life balance. The Generation X didn’t want their kids to grow up as they did. They wanted to provide them more freedom and co-determination. Thus, the Generation Y was taking part in decisions from the earliest age – like for example choosing the new family dog or the next holiday destination. Besides, they got medals for everything even if they didn’t deserve them – just to avoid complaints by their parents. That’s why they are also called trophy kids. Furthermore, the environment had also a significant impact on their present behavior. The Generation Y was born in a prosperous world with unlimited and fast access to anything due to technological developments and the globalisation. It was from now on possible to communicate online everywhere with everybody, to make economical trips around the world, to order something online and receiving it the next day, to buy bananas all year around in the supermarket, etc.

Therefore, it is no wonder that members of this generation are considered as picky, spoiled, selfish and also lazy, because they don’t want to work like other generations did. They don’t want to be 40h a week in the same office, longing for the weekend. So, what do they actually want? What is the Generation Y requiring?

Purpose over paychecks

Due to the fact, that the millennials never had to wait too long for getting what they wanted , materialism is not as important to them as it was for previous generations. What matters is the access to things at the right time which is more practical and cost-efficient than physical possession. That’s why there are more and more sharing sites for cars, gadgets or even clothes. Therefore, the Generation Y spends less money on items but more on adventures and experiences. They prefer having less money (as long as their existence is secured) but more time for their family and friends. For this reason, they would rather say yes to a sabbatical or working part-time than to a bigger company car or a higher paycheck. They also prefer pursuing a meaningful and fulfilling activity rather than enjoying a prestigious status. Self-realization, individualism and freedom are the most important keywords of this generation. The millennials like flat hierarchies, they prefer working WITH their boss rather than FOR him. They want to participate and think and act independently as well as self-responsibly. Receiving regular feedback (at least once per month) is very important to them, because it helps them to perform better and to further their education. Instead of driving always to the same office, digital natives more and more demand to work from their home office and have flexible working hours. Similar to their predecessors, they desire the reconciliation of work and private life. However, they’d rather like to have a work-life blend than a work-life balance, which means that they want to be permitted to regulate private matters while working, and in return they are willing to work even in the free time if required.

Bean bags instead of office chairs

This conversion of the way of thinking also leads to major changes in the business world. Because of the demographic change employers don’t have the same variety as they used to, which results in an adjustment of the labour market. Many companies try to attract the newcomers with beanbags, smoothie makers or football tables. Are the millennials therefore pampered? Not necessarily. They just adapted themselves very skillfully to their surrounding environment, which meanwhile offers more than 20 different types only of butter! Thus, it is not surprising that the members of the Generation Y show decision difficulties and that they want to keep their options open.

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