8 Ways Gen Y Can Impact HR

by Kelly Long on January 16, 2010

We are a flawed generation – a generation lacking many of the characteristics that our predecessors hold dear.

We are a talented generation – a generation that yearns to explore, expand and make an impact on the workplace.

Whatever your take … whatever your stance, Gen Y has something to offer the modern-day profession of HR!

8 Ways Gen Y Can Impact HR

  1. Resistance to authority – This can be valuable in the HR profession because they consistently need to stand up to the highest forces (and lowest) in any situation.  HR realizes that they belong in any given situation because they have a right to protect the company – internally and externally.
  2. Documentation – Consider the fact Gen Y loves to collect everything about their lives and share with the world – a highly transparent group!  And they know how to document it! While HR recognizes some things are private, it still must collect and capture relevant information and situations taking place at all times.
  3. Technology – Face it … we’re not going back to typewriters anytime soon.  HR and Technology, of late, are like peas in a pod and will only continue to advance. Gen Y brings natural skills and abilities in technology that can help us improve the efficiencies in the profession.  This, inevitably, will leave more time for high-touch interaction.
  4. Equality – Along with entitlement comes our common belief that no one is better than anyone else.  This is a natural trait and belief that’s highly valued within the profession of HR.  The Civil Rights act of 1964? Natural for Gen Y!
  5. Inclusiveness – I know it’s hard for Gen X and Baby Boomers to accept that everyone gets an award at our ceremonies.  However, our ability to include everyone within the organization and establish a sense of camaraderie is a huge need within the field of HR.
  6. Fairness – Our sense of equality and inclusion result in our innate desire for fairness.  We put more value on a person’s ability to achieve things than how long someone has been in a job.  At the end of the day, companies make money when they have employees that get results – we generally understand  pay for performance.
  7. Education – Gen Y loves to learn!  We also recognize the advantages of ongoing education in the workplace … more skills, more advancement, more earning potential.  If an HR employee can see that value, they can infuse it in employees of the company.  The better educated your staff, the more likely it is for your organization to achieve higher performance, profits and/or productivity.
  8. Multi-tasking – C’mon! We’ve grown up Facebooking, listening to music and writing papers at the same time.  We get it.  We know how to dedicate our resources and time in the most efficient manner, despite constant distractions.  Gen Y had to learn how to multi-task … it was a necessity.  No day in HR is the same … that’s the beauty of the profession.  Each day brings a new set of challenges and problems – but the ones from yesterday still need to be addressed.  Will the real multi-taskers please stand up?

It’s important to note that this isn’t a post designed to point out why Gen Y is any better than another generation for the profession of HR. This is a post simply designed to highlight the strengths Gen Y can bring to this profession.

With each strength, we have a weakness – just like all other generations.  It’s my belief that we need to learn how to work together and capitalize on all these strengths.

How else do you think Gen Y will impact the HR environment in a positive way?

Photo Credit, Martino!

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

pasmuz January 23, 2010 at 10:50 am


Per Mike Krupa’s @pdxmikek suggestion, I just spent the last 2 hours reading your 1 blog post.;-)

The first thing I would like to say is congratulations on creating a post that spurred on such a debate. I don’t see that very often in the blogosphere.

The second thing I want to say is to Wendy Tandon > your SNL skit idea was very funny. Considering some of the canned training videos I have seen, this is probably not that far off from being created, for real.

Third, the words Generation X, Generation Y, Boomers, Millennials, etc. are just words. They are words placed together by people with the intention of helping people to understand other people in the workplace that appear to behave differently, and use age as a way to explain the different behavior. What is of interest to me is that these words were not used for this purpose until Douglas Coupland coined the phrase Generation X.

The words Baby Boomers was used to describe a generation of people that represented a spike in the US population due to post-WWII prosperity. But Gen X was created as a tongue-in-cheek description of the disaffected slacker culture that represented the generation that followed. Coupland’s idea was picked up by training professionals who find virtue in sociological borders that explain who we are. The words Generation Y was the first term born out of this. Gen Y descriptions were created before Gen Y even got into college.

My perception is that Gen Y is the first to take the label given to them and wear it like a badge. I am not opposed to the concept of using sociological tools to assist in learning about each other. But Gen Y was not born as a Gen Y’er. They were born and they bought a label handed down to them. This is what I don’t understand about folks born in the Gen Y timeframe. Boomers and X’ers will refer to themselves this way to differentiate a time period. But it appears to me Gen Y use it as a way to describe a lifestyle.

To Kelly & Chris, or anyone else, with accepting the term Generation Y, is it really who you are or are you just buying a stereotype that was sold to you? And Chris, is my historical perception correct?

Chris Ferdinandi - Renegade HR January 24, 2010 at 9:26 am

@Paul – I think you really touched on it when you mentioned that it simply differentiates a time period. And even then, as you close to the “generational borders,” it all kind of blends.

I think if you read through my comments, you’ll notice that I actively shun the idea of a generation as a lifestyle. I’m part of Gen Y because “experts” tell me based on the year I was born that’s the generation I fall into. That says nothing of who I am or how I behave.

Breanne April 14, 2010 at 2:36 pm

Kelly, I love this post. Generally I have held a position similar to Chris Ferdinandi, but when put in an HR context, I completely agree.

Alanah Throop July 23, 2010 at 12:57 pm

Hey Kelly!
This is a great post – I think you have hit on something really great here. Being a Gen Y – I can see these characteristic in people my age and in my generation. I am not saying Gen X’s don’t have these traits, but the younger generation LOVES to put their lives all over the internet. And as teenagers that may not be the best example of documentation but this could be very valuable later on in their careers. I see many of these characteristics all throughout my generation from people who havent even been exposed to the business/HR world. Who knows what going to happen when the majority of the young Gen Y’s get into the business! It’s interesting to see the change in the generations – I don’t know what to expect next!…Flying cars?

Kelly, I would love to use your post on our blog rypple.com/blog – i think you hit on some really core factors about the revelation of HR and the change that is occurring right now. Please let me know what you think about your content on the blog!

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