Lose Gen Y stereotypes: they prefer traditional approach to work environment, pay & attire

For all the talk and stereotypes depicting today's Generation Y as entitled, fast-tracking careerists, a new survey shows this group may have more similarities than differences when compared to previous generations.

From work environment, to pay, to dressing for success and beyond, Gen Y are surprisingly traditional in their views and perhaps not quite as different as one may think, according to a new survey conducted by Career Edge Organization.

On the subject of "preferred workplace layout," for example, the leading choice at 34 per cent was a "formal office structure with cubicles for entry level employees." Open concept offices were the choice of 25 per cent, while only 9 per cent preferred an unstructured workplace with no assigned workstations. Perhaps surprisingly, about one third (32.7 per cent) said none of the above work environments were important to them.

The survey also revealed traditional preferences among Gen Y on compensation. About 36 per cent said they prefer to work under a "standardized salary" system based on regular industry surveys and pay scales, while 34 per cent preferred "merit-based pay" based on performance.

On the job-hunting trail, it appears that the time-tested ways may still be the best sources for Gen Y job seekers. Asked how they are forming their opinions of employers today, 80 per cent said they are most likely to base their views on information gathered from job postings, as well as corporate websites.

"This means the tried-and-true job posting may be the perfect place for employers to convey key information about company culture, career path opportunities and more to attract desirable Gen Y candidates," says Anne Lamont, President and CEO of Career Edge Organization. "Employers need to do everything they can today to develop authentic, informative postings that powerfully portray them as a preferred employer. In times like these - with talent shortages already affecting many industries and employers competing for talent - the right job posting can help in attracting the best candidates."

"It's a two-way street now - not only are employers assessing candidates but candidates are making their own short list of preferred employers - and job postings are a powerful recruitment tool to attract top talent," Lamont adds. "Employers are being sized up and scrutinized, so it is crucial to provide honest, insightful job postings, with content that accurately portrays your firm as a truly great place to work. Covering areas like corporate culture, health benefits, financial benefits and management style can create a strong impression that inspires the right response."

Beyond job postings and corporate web sites as leading sources of information on employers and career opportunities, family and friends were sources of information for 62 per cent of respondents.

"We see the value in putting our best foot forward as a preferred employer, and the importance of making the right connections with the best talent in the workforce," says Leslie Quinlan, vice president Global Talent Management, TD Bank. "It is competitive out there - top candidates have their choice of job opportunities in many cases, and Gen Y are no different.  TD is very committed to attracting the best of the next generation of leaders to our organization."

The survey involved more than 1,100 Gen Y from across Ontario born in the mid-1980s or later - that confident, ambitious, multitasking group also known as Millennials. They were asked their views on workplace culture, including their workplace preferences and what they deem is important in determining whether an organization is a great place to work.

Among respondents, about half were in the 22-to-25 age group, with the rest 26 to 29 years old. The respondent group was 61 per cent female and 39 per cent male, with 63 per cent holding at least an undergraduate university degree. Fewer than half of respondents (46.5 per cent) said they were currently employed.

Gen Y also take a traditional view on how to "dress for success", the survey shows. On the question of preferred office attire, when given the option 56 per cetn chose "business casual - no jeans," compared to about 13 per cent who preferred "casual" attire that includes jeans, and 9 per cent who chose the "formal" office look of suit and tie.   
"Overall, the survey is insightful and indeed perhaps a bit surprising when you compare the results to today's typical Gen Y stereotype," Lamont adds. "Gen Y seem to be saying that while they have clear, strongly held beliefs on how to pursue and manage their careers, they also display traditional views in key areas."

Exactly what qualities define a great employer for Gen Y job seekers? About 73 per cent of respondents cited "continuous, ongoing and informal performance feedback" from their manager as a leading quality of great workplaces, while about 72 per cent also cited "tuition subsidies" for education courses related to their jobs. An "open-door senior leadership policy" was seen by 64 per cent as a quality of great workplaces.

Gen Y also value various paid health benefits such as prescription drugs (82 per cent) and dental coverage (86 per cent). Companies that focus their investment in compensation and benefits were chosen by 60%, while a focus on work atmosphere and work environment was chosen by 50 per cent as attributes of the best workplaces.

On the question of preferred work style, a large majority of Gen Y respondents, about 82 per cent, said they look for organizations that offer "a balance of independent and team work."

For more results from the Gen Y Workplace Culture survey, conducted online from September 1-30, 2010 please contact Career Edge Organization.   

Career Edge Organization, a national not-for-profit, has connected private, public and non-profit businesses with diverse, quality talent since 1996 through three innovative paid internship programs: Career Edge for recent graduates from Canadian colleges and universities, Ability Edge for graduates with disabilities and Career Bridge for internationally qualified professionals.  Career Edge Organization provides strategic, cost effective and flexible staffing solutions, including on-line access to candidates, payroll administration and HR recruitment expertise, including best practice sharing regarding recruitment, retention and integration of recent graduates, graduates with disabilities and internationally qualified professionals.