afriQuest Research

Examples of past research studies.

Generation Y

Welcome to the world of Generation Y [defined as those born between the year 1977 & the year 1990] — a group that is hungry and in a hurry for success. Constantly in need of feedback.

Candy is a bright upcoming engineer with a leading pharmaceutical agency. She consistently performs at par with her peers. She is bright and confident just like most of her colleagues at the company. While working on a project, she came up with what she considered brilliant ideas to resolve issues on the assignment. She went on to discuss them with the manager who was, however, hesitant to implement them, saying they were too radical.

She constantly shared her frustrations with her colleagues in the office through Twitter and Facebook. On a separate occasion, Candy bumped into the managing director at a golf tournament and told him of her ideas. She immediately tweeted her colleagues with the news and updated her blog. The boss liked her ideas and recommended that the manager implement them.

Organisations around the world are grappling with the challenges arising from managing different generations at work.

The Baby Boomers (those born between 1955 and 1964) are now at the top of their game in the workplace.

According to research, nearly 90 per cent of the world’s top 200 firms are currently led by Boomers or people from an even older generation.

Only 23 of them are led by members of Generation X (those born between 1965 and 1971). It is worth noting that by 2014, nearly half the employees in the world will be those born after 1980. They are coming into the workplace against a context in which the world is flat, dominated by the free flow of information, extensive use of social media, rapidly changing environments and markets and complex issues. As the short fictional anecdote illustrates, Generation Y can be considered as technology savvy and highly ambitious.

Despite the dearth of research, there are emerging themes that define this generation. Research has identified what we consider as the top five characteristics of Generation Y, particularly those who are young professionals. These are generalised but provide useful roadmap for organisations to manage this crop of employees. For Generation Y, work is a key part of life.

They seek careers and job assignments that are challenging, stretching and intellectually stimulating. Secondly, they tend to be high achievers and therefore it is important for organisations to engage fully with them. They expect clear road maps for success with clear, consistent and constant feedback In a research study conducted by PwC, 80 per cent of Generation Y participants said they would leave an employer whose corporate sustainability practices no longer met their own.

Thirdly, they will increasingly view the organisation and the world without boundaries. Their focus will be on interest and opportunity, not necessarily on monetary rewards. They will happily begin careers in Kenya or their home countries but will follow better opportunities abroad.

They are likely to shift across functional areas, roles, multiple cultures and economies without the need to return to their home countries until later in their careers, if at all. With regard to internal dynamics, colleagues are important to Generation Y employees.

The network of friends they make at work is also vital. Fourthly, they see their careers defined by an infinite number of possibilities and developing in different directions. They believe that they are in charge of building their own careers through working in positions that would develop them. They are also keen to learn self management and personal productivity skills as well as gain industry/functional knowledge and technical skills. They do not expect jobs for life.

Fifth, gender equality is now expected and taken for granted. In addition, Generation Y will tend to settle down later than their parents’ generation did. The challenges for organisations and HR Managers in designing talent management programmes to take these issues into account will focus on the following:

Work Management:

Given their need for constant, immediate, constructive feedback, managers are bound to be put under pressure in managing Generation Y staff. Emphasis should be put on how this generation can manage their own learning and work with peers to provide a regular flow of information and feedback.

Management of Boundaries:

Generation Y tend to use technology at lot more than other generations. They reach out to peers in their organisations, build a virtual network of associates around the globe. Information flow. The challenge is around managing the flow of information, deciding what information should be maintained in the public domain and what can be brought into the workplace.

The Design of Work:

Developing intellectual, social and emotional capital is important for this generation. Organisations will need to focus on designing work that is meaningful, delivers sufficient autonomy for the individual to develop themselves and allows for rapid learning.

Their work needs to be challenging and gives room for more opportunities and regular feedback.


Employers must make working hours flexible with packages and benefits to match.

The Author, Ms Njage is a manager in People and Change, consulting department at PricewaterhouseCoopers.