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Generational factors in the workplace & motivating generation Y

When defining generations a number of factors are taken into consideration, including birth rates, significant world events and shared life experiences[1]. Employers need to acknowledge generational differences when creating a working environment which is both productive and motivational. Currently the Australian workforce mainly consists of  the Lucky Generation, Baby Boomers, Generation X and Y and the iGeneration. As the Lucky Generation moves into retirement and Baby Boomers become more family orientated, it is becoming increasingly important for employers to understand future generations, like Generation Y. They will, after all, be the bosses of tomorrow.

Who is Gen Y?

Generation Y (Gen Y) consists of those born between 1980-1994, who make up a whooping 20.5% of the population[2]. Born in the age of the internet, Gen Y is not only the one of the youngest generations in the workplace but also the most technologically advanced. Social networking technology (like Facebook) and increased importance of travel, has helped Gen Y to see the world as a global community. In this sense,  this younger generation is better suited to global climate of the modern workplace. Despite the introduction of Higher Eduction Contribution Scheme (HECS), Gen Y has propelled a great increase in tertiary education with one in four having a Bachelor Degree and above in 2006[3]. The great potential of this highly qualified group is curbed by a perception of a short attention span and a need for instant gratification.

Motivating Generation Y

Gen Y has a reputation for shorter tenure in jobs with one in four 20-24 year olds changing careers every year. It is an employees market making it crucial for employers to learn how to motivate and therefore retain staff. Various social research has highlighted the 3 most significant ways in which employers can mobilise their employees for optimum results.

Management Style

Gen Y grew up in the period where society reared their children with great self esteem and  and self worth. This confidence needs to be coddled and managers must be enthusiastic and encouraging through public affirmation. An interactive style of management in which  bosses highlight areas for improvement and guide towards achievement is key. It is important to be accessible and explain to staff not only why but how decisions are made. Management must be participatory and inclusive which can be achieved through constant staff feedback via surveys, focus groups and exit interviews with departing staff.

Training and career development

Employers must support development or Gen Y has a tendency to feel stagnant and lose interest in their careers. Gen Y does not fear commitment but rather yearns for new challenges through variety and change. This can be achieved through ongoing education and career development in which staff learn not only technical skills but have a chance to be mentored or coached individually.  The multitasking nature of Gen Y means that junior staff can handle greater responsibilities than traditionally thought and thrive working on several projects at once. Contrary to previous generations, Gen Y expect promotions much earlier in their career so constant evaluation of skills and development can help create more company loyalty.

Workplace culture

Creating the right workplace culture can spark a passion within employees that resonates in their work. While the Baby Boomers and Gen X struggled with the work/family balance, Gen Y is more focused on being part of a career which is meaningful. Many factors, like friendship, are important factors when Gen Y settles into their career. Lines between social interaction and work life no longer exist for this generation and building staff relationships through events and team building is essential. A lifestyle friendly environment is important and including elements like child care and family friendly functions can help to engage Gen Y. A diverse workforce is suited to Gen Y who embraces multi-generations, genders and cultures. This technologically advanced generation also requires an office which is equipped with modern facilities and progressive technology.

Strategic changes can help to motivate Gen Y and in turn create a workforce more capable than perhaps any before. So, Y not?


[1]ABS, Gov., 2007 census,$FILE/20700_a_picture_of_the_nation.pdf

[2]McCrindle Research,

[3]ABS, Gov., 2007 census,$FILE/20700_a_picture_of_the_nation.pdf

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