Generation Y – The demanding children of affluence?


Generation Y

They are young, confident, and demand more than older age groups: the so-called Gen Y is turning the labor market upside down with its high demands. But how consistent is this phenomenon? More a whim of affluent nations or really an attitude change of a whole generation?

Work is supposed to be fun, provide intellectual challenges, and permit creative freedom. The topic of work-life balance has top priority. Career over private life? No, thank you! Gen Y knows exactly what their working life should look like and creates completely new challenges for businesses. But do employers have to put up with this? Critics claim that the growing demands are an expression of a generation spoilt by affluence and would settle down into realism in the next recession. A European comparative study of the business consultant Consulting Cum Laude proves the opposite.1

Basically everyone agrees – across borders

Young academics between 18 and 32 in Germany, Spain, Great Britain, and the Netherlands are in relative agreement concerning their ideas of working life. The economic situation of the respective country does not play a major role. This is the clearest when you compare Germany and Spain, a country in crisis. Despite an unemployment rate of 24 % at the time of the survey (in the meantime down to 18 %), young Spaniards consider a harmonious work-life balance and good work place atmosphere to be the most important factors at the work place. Job security is only in third place and is thus even lower than in Germany.

Small national differences – Germans like harmony

So basically, members of Gen Y think the same way in large parts of Europe. But there are also national differences in the priority of certain factors. Germans have especially high demands of work place quality. For them, in contrast to their peers in other countries, a pleasant work place atmosphere is the most important aspect of a job (Spain 2nd place, Netherlands 3rd place, Great Britain 4th place). So it is fitting that 80 % of the German respondents can work best in a harmonic work environment. For comparison: the average in other countries is just 65 %.

Disappointed by reality – German companies have to make up ground

German businesses in particular only rarely meet these high standards. The most significant named reasons for the German Gen Y changing jobs a lack of employer appreciation (Germany 64 % vs. European Union 46 %) and a bad work place atmosphere (Germany 56 % vs. European Union 41 %)2 and in both cases are clearly above the average of respondents from other countries. By comparison, the Netherlands looks a lot better: young employees have very similar ideas in terms of appreciation and work place climate, but are disappointed less by the businesses.

Traditional Brits – Career is still important here

The expectations of young Brits differ the most from their peers. Apparently the traditional values of previous generations are still the strongest here: 47 % of the respondents define career success as an important goal in life – vs. only 34 % on average in the EU. The number of those who believe that work does not need to be fun but serves to earn money is also surprisingly high (24 % vs. 14 %).

Nonetheless: Generation Y demands more from their employees across all countries. Businesses should beware of shrugging this off as a temporary, affluence-related trend. If you want to win well-qualified employees for the long term, you will have to address the new expectations of younger generations.

2 Stand April 2017