Are Gen Y corporate prisoners?

Posted 05 September 2011 by

Much has been said about Gen Y being a demanding generation when it comes to the workplace. Born between the mid-70s to the mid-80s, the perception is that they are always on the look out for strong career development opportunities, a corporate ladder they can quickly climb with a great work life balance to boot - and they are most certainly willing to move if the right opportunities do not come along.

While it’s never a good idea to put people into boxes because of age, gender or background, employers should recognise that social and cultural factors will have influenced the mindsets of different generational groups as they grew up and entered the workplace. These factors will undoubtedly have a huge impact on the way they think and what they want from life.

With this in mind, Gen Y’s approach to work probably stems from the fact that most of them will have graduated from university while the jobs market was booming and opportunities were plentiful. To some extent they will have been able to pick and choose jobs, something out of reach to many of today’s graduates.

However, most Gen Ys will have seen their careers plateau a few years in when the recession really started to bite. The sluggish recovery has meant that while there are now green shoots starting to appear, many Gen Ys will have become ‘corporate prisoners’.

This basically means they have been trapped in a job that does not fulfill their needs but have been unable to move because of the economic climate. The concept of ‘riding out the storm’ is not by any means limited to Gen Y but because of their career and development expectations they are likely to have been hit hardest.

What this means for businesses is that there is likely to be a solid movement of Gen Ys as soon as the time is right and they can get back on track with following the career paths they had mapped out for themselves when they started working life.

Good businesses should not risk a Gen Y exodus when the market becomes buoyant again. If they want to hold on to these individuals then those all important conversations need to be had now to show where career development opportunities exist. Employers must focus on re-engaging with a group that may well have been feeling the need to escape for some time.

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