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Generation Y

1 August 2008
A close-up of a face

"They combine the team work of the Baby Boomers generation with the capability approach of the army veterans and the technological understanding of generation X. At first, and even second thought, Generation Y workers are the ideal work force, as well the ideal citizens".

-Ron Zemke, Claire Raines and Bob Filipczak , "Generations at Work".

What is Generation Y?

Generation Y is a term referring to the generation born immediately after Generation X, from the early 80's to the early 2000's. Generation Y are the children of the Baby Boomers generation and the older section of Generation X. In order to understand the meaning of Generation Y, it is vital to know about its parents: the Baby Boomers, a term referring to the "Baby Boom" period following World War Two. The term usually refers to a demographic wave including those born between the middle of the 40's to the middle of 60's of the 20th Century. The term Generation Y has been popularized by Douglas Copeland's book 'Generation X: Tales of an Accelerated Culture' which mainly dealt with Generation X.

Technological & cultural Characteristics

Generation Y, especially in western countries, was born and raised into an acceleration of technological development in the field of computers and internet. Their lives are full of technological means such as computers, internet, cellular phones and other gadgets. Due to their access to technological tools and advanced technological means, synonyms for the Y generation are the Internet Generation and Digital Natives.

Furthermore, they spend substantially more time in front of the computer than in front of the TV. Part of this time on the internet includes belonging to at least one social network.

In consumerism terms, Generation Y can be defined as highly aware of brands and serious investors in entertainment and leisure. There is also an awakening of social consciousness and contribution to the community by members of this generation. Generation Y is a consuming force to be reckoned with, as they earn handsome salaries and affect the consuming decisions of many older consumers.

In occupational terms, they can be characterized as ambitious, aware of their value in the work market, and with a tendency for mobility between workplaces. Nevertheless, despite the occupational mobility, these youngsters believe that their workplace "says" something about them as individuals, and therefore find it important to work in a challenging work environment.

Generation Y as Knowledge Workers

A Generation Y worker spends a substantial portion of his/her day using WhatsApp, Facebook and other social networks. These websites, software, and networks are characterized by communities and sharing, which characterize Generation Y as well since they find sharing opinions and knowledge important and aspire to learn from their environment and teach back. Technological accessibility, as well as high awareness and access to advanced technological means all make Generation Y classic knowledge workers. Their advanced computerizing literacy, knowledge consumption as part of their work habits, and the sharing that is an integral part of their identity (which means texting, blogging and talkbacks) all affect the organizational Knowledge Management processes. Due to their affinity to sharing and mutual learning, Generation Y members are usually ideal content experts and it is therefore recommended to include them in Knowledge Management projects and hear their opinion during the project's different stages.

An example of a company that internalized these messages is Virgin. Virgin Mobile maintains an internet network which connects marketing workers in all network bases around the globe in order to exchange information and experiences.

Members of Generation Y are a substantial part of the market's workforce, and as such they greatly affect the consuming force. Being acquainted with their characteristics and behavior may affect the development of organizational processes, as well as suitability for jobs, better recruitment and assignment for workplaces. Companies which have instilled different sharing modules, such as discussions, forums, and other modules which include mutual learning and exchanging opinions, benefit from workers more involved and contributing.

Therefore, members of Generation Y are involved and caring workers in which the culture of Knowledge Management is already instilled. It would be a wise move on behalf of organizations to admit them to their forces!

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