Individualistic, self-loving, instant, adaptable. If these words describe you, you are a Generation Y’er. Entering the labor market from nearly 10 years ago, Generation Y has become the object of the society’s great attention.
▲ Shin Sungpil is explaining BEK 2013 to GT. Photographed by Park Jin Yung
“ E m p l o y e e s don’t leave bad companies, they leave bad bosses.” As the famous quote goes, Human Resources (HR) management is getting its full deserved attention in this modern age. Especially now that we are competing not only with smart tools but also with smart minds, managing people effectively is one of the most decisive factors leading to a company’s success story.
Naturally, with HR management becoming the hot keyword, there rose institutions that study its nature and provide according knowledge services to firms in need of help—one of which is Aon Hewitt. This firm runs a biannual research on recognizing the “Best Employers” in order to provide insight on the connectivity between business performance and personnel affairs. Based on a threelevel process—namely alignment, measurement, and identification—Aon Hewitt is currently working on HR research entitled “Best Employers 2.0 Korea 2011 & 2013” (BEK). In this process, surveys of employees and Chief Executive Officers (CEO), and analyses of companies’ personnel mangement are used. The Granite Tower (GT) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Aon Hewitt to report on its research findings and offer readers the resourceful information.
Going further than providing prospective jobseekers with practical data, BEK is also an opportunity for companies to assess itself and interact with the needs of its employers. “On the part of employees, this research will present a whole new list of workplace conditions worth considering,” says Shin Sungpil, Practice Leader of Aon Hewitt. “Even those who are already with a job can appreciate the good qualities of their workplace and recognize parts that need improvement.” As for the part of employers, Shin says that companies learn what is expected of them through the employee surveys in the research. Through this interaction mediated by the research BEK, companies will develop for the better.
Being a school newspaper, our readership consists mainly of college students subject to employment sometime in the future. “For university students, our research results can be very meaningful since it provides information on not only the company’s size or business matters but also other more social factors such as the level of employee engagement and chances of self-improvement,” says Shin. As Aon Hewitt wishes to communicate with college students who are directly subject to employment, and as GT can provide readers quite exclusive information regarding the job market, we hope this project will be a win-win for us all.
Moreover, through gathering and analyzing data with professional aid, GT plans to report on the moving trend of our society, and observe in particular its relationship to our generation–Generation Y. Over the course of the next four issues, this term-project will cover subjects as follows: Generation Y (September); Generation Y and in-house communication (October); Generation Y and women, regular, and irregular workers (November); Generation Y’s dream workplace (December), based on BEK 2011; and an analysis on Aon Hewitt’s BEK 2013 (March, 2013).
Generation X, Y, N—words for new generations are coined every now and then. The concept of “generation” represents the older “generation’s” attempt both to understand and cohabit with their sons and granddaughters, and to manipulate them by characterizing them, somehow based on the interests of the concerned. Keeping this in mind, Generation Y is defined and analyzed in comparison to Generation X. The term Generation Y, first used in 1993 in an American magazine Advertising Age editorial, usually refers to the people born from the early 1980s to the early 2000s. As does every new generation, Generation Y features some new characteristics of its own, eventually bringing a new breeze into the working environment.
To characterize Generation Y, its members tend to put individual before community, according to Professor Chun Sang Chin (Sociology, Sogang University), “although binding people of 30 years or more into one category has flaws.” As for the older generations, especially 386 Generation and Industrial Generation in Korea, communal aims such as economic development and democratization were considered most important. While these “heroic” generations willingly sacrificed themselves for the society, Generation Y focuses on the individual’s own aim. In the older generations’ point of view, people of Generation Y are “precariats,” precarious proletariats, without a clear, communal purpose or destination.
This is related to another characteristics of Generation Y, that they have a strong sense of self. Raised by the hands-on parents who thought of children as the center of family, Generation Y has built up strong self-esteem and sense of entitlement. They feel secure and empowered. Freely expressing oneself comes natural to them. Compared to other more “humble” generations, Generation Y is confident and has to make itself heard.
Although independent and confident of itself, Generation Y seems to always want to be involved in a social group. Easy as it is to be connected to others, especially online, people feel uneasy when they are left out from social links. Also, Generation Y is more likely to be influenced by the peer and often the media that uses the power of peer-connectivity.
Being tech-savvy not only puts Generation Y in extremely interwoven connection but also affects their way of interacting; they exchange instant and direct messages. Patiently waiting for reactions is not the thing for Generation Y; why drag on? After all, they are of a “smart” generation. They can be impatient but at the same time, they come clean and they can communicate night and day.
Education is important for Generation Y. Getting higher education is almost taken for granted in this generation. They have grown up in an environment where learning is considered the basic and consistent step in life. As a result, they are ready to be put in new situations, take challenges, and learn new things. It does not mean, however, that they learn and accept everything. When it goes against what they know or think is right, often through education, they question it.
Diversity—it is one of the keywords in understanding Generation Y. Although it varies from person to person, Generation Y adapts well to being in diverse situations with diverse people. Influenced by the media and the globalized world it reflects, Generation Y is at least more tolerant, if not totally understanding, of different backgrounds and values.
The demographic characteristics of Generation Y nowadays exert ever-increasing influence on the pre-existing corporate culture, replacing it with a less rigid HR and business management system. The most notable trait Generation Y possesses in terms of business is its strong sense of self and individuality. “Generation Y exhibits wider spectrum of values and focuses more on growth and a future for itself,” says Kim Hyun-Ki, a senior researcher at LG Economic Research Institute.
The significance Generation Y places on self and individuality over organization is patently represented in its working attitude and expectations from a corporation. As any generation does, Generation Y highly values rewards, a sense of growth, and work and life balance, when selecting or evaluating a firm to work for. What distinguishes this new generation from others is that it places “self” in the center more so than any other generations, while considering these three criteria.
Senior researcher Kim comments, “Mere high pay no longer attracts Generation Y, but rather a high pay that reflects one’s achievements and values. Also, what might be even more appealing to Generation Y than pay would be opportunities to learn from leaders, from the company, and through interesting and challenging work. That is why Generation Y prefers chances to work abroad or to organize small-scale projects for plotting business strategies.” Choi Joon Ho (’08, History), who is currently working as an intern at Seoul Broadcasting System (SBS) adds, “Compared to the previous generation, we deem work more as a pathway to self-fulfillment, rather than as a means for living.”
In contrast to the older generations who devote the majority of time to their firm, Generation Y draws a clear line between life as an employee and life as an individual, investing more time and effort to oneself for personal joy and future. Kim Hyung Tae, the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) at emFrontier, an IT company, observes, “Generation Y is comparatively less devotional to the organization in general than older generations, but they tend to be more capable of self-improvement. Generation Y no longer works overtime just because their boss is doing so, or joins every get-together just because their boss wants them to. They simply invest more time to “self”, enjoying hobbies or learning new skills.”
As Generation Y accounts for a rising portion of the job market, it is inevitable for corporations to hire them. Indeed, only this new generation, with diverse individuality and creativity, seems to be able to transform the rigid and stubborn management system into a flexible one befitting the rapidly globalizing world.
Accordingly, the interaction between Generation Y and Generation X, who is usually climbing up the corporate ladder before Generation Y, has gradually become frequent, and sometimes the two clash. “Miscommunication and cultural conflicts occur when the underlying value systems of the two generations collide. Even though Generation X is considered as the coming generation in relative standard, they still have experienced about ten more years at the firm than Generation Y and have climbed up to the position of administrator, assimilating to the older generation. Therefore, they prioritize organization over individual, which contrasts with Generation Y,” concludes senior researcher Kim.
In order to synthesize the individual creativity of Generation Y into an asset for the whole group and to minimize conflicts between generations, Kim suggests developing the hidden sense of solidarity shared among members of the community, which is rather easily found in Generation Y in Korea, than that of other countries. He concludes, “A firm needs leadership, specifically the middlestratum leaders, to effectively motivate Generation Y by empathizing with the new generation’s diverse values and thoughts, and by communicating with them with an open mind. In other words, effort to understand the differences in values and culture by each generation is vital for breaking the wall betweem them.”
As Generation Y already comprises a significant portion of the business sector, its influence seems to be unwavering, or even burgeoning. In five years, they will replace the current “Generation X”, leading Generation Z. What will come of Generation Y in the business sector depends on how we understand and utilize them under the current HR and organizational management system, and that will eventually determine our future.