Common Characteristics of Generation Y Professionals

What Employers Should Know About Their Gen Y Employees

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Members of Generation Y (also known as Gen Y or Millennials) were born in the 1980s and early 1990s, the loose definition that separates them from the generation before them (Generation X) and the generation that followed (Generation Z).

Generation Y Characteristics

As expected by their birth years, Gen Y makes up the fastest growing segment of the workforce in the 2010s with numbers estimated as high as 80 million or more.

As law firms compete for available talent, employers simply cannot ignore the needs, desires, and attitudes of this vast generation. As with each generation that preceded Gen Y, Millenials have come to be defined by a set of characteristics formed mainly by the world and culture they grew up in.

Here are a few common characteristics of Generation Y.

Generation Y Is Tech-Savvy

Generation Y grew up with technology, and they rely on it to perform their jobs better. Armed with smartphones, laptops, and other gadgets, this generation is plugged in 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. They like to communicate through email and text messaging rather than face-to-face contact and prefer webinars and online technology to traditional lecture-based presentations.

Generation Y Is Family-Centric 

The fast track has lost much of its appeal for millennials, whose members are willing to trade high pay for fewer billable hours, flexible schedules, and better work/life balances.

Although older generations may view this attitude as narcissistic or see it as a lack of commitment, discipline, and drive, Generation Y legal professionals have a different vision of workplace expectations. They often prioritize family over work. 

Generation Y Is Achievement-Oriented

Nurtured and pampered by parents who didn't want to make the mistakes of the previous generation, millennials are confident, ambitious, and achievement-oriented.

They have high expectations of their employers. They seek new challenges and aren't afraid to question authority. Generation Y wants meaningful work and a solid learning curve.

Generation Y Is Team-Oriented

Generation Y participated in team sports, play groups and other group activities as children. They value teamwork and seek the input and affirmation of others. They're a no-person-left-behind generation, loyal and committed. They want to be included and involved.

Generation Y Craves Attention

Generation Y craves feedback and guidance. They appreciate being kept in the loop and often need frequent praise and reassurance. Millennials may benefit greatly from mentors who can help guide and develop their talents. 

Generation Y Is Prone to Job-Hopping

A potential downside of Generation Y workers is that they're always looking for something new and better. It's not uncommon for a millennial to stay with a firm for only two to three years before moving on to a position he thinks is better. The resumes you as an employer receive for open positions will no doubt demonstrate this. Don’t discount members of this generation just because they’ve worked for several firms — they bring with them a variety of experiences.

More often than not, they just have high expectations that may be difficult to meet.

The Bottom Line

Generation Y possesses many characteristics that are unique in comparison to past generations. They tend to be excited about their jobs and they'll work hard and efficiently. They might approach their superiors as equals more than previous generations did, but firms can take steps to draw a line between supervisors and friends. Millennials will show a lot of respect for their supervisors and get the job done when that line is in the sand.