The Granite Tower
Mapping Generation Y’s Ideal Work Environment
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승인 2013.03.28  13:53:57
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Aon Hewitt’s Best Employers Korea (BEK) 2011 research explored what makes an organization a great place to work. While the previous issues analyzed the Best Employers according to the research, this issue stands in the Generation Y’s point of view and explores what Generation Y actually wants.

To get the idea of what Generation Y wants for their work and of the factors they consider when applying for work, The Granite Tower (GT) conducted a survey of a sample group of 1000 Korea University (KU) students (return rate: 95.8 percent). The sample group was subcategorized by major, largely humanities and science & engineering, gender, and school year. The questionnaire was about the following key factors that drive employee engagement: people, work, opportunities, quality of life, company practices, and total rewards. This issue will focus especially on the questions that reflect Generation Y’s characteristics in terms of working. 


1. What is the Most Important Factor to Consider in a Work Environment?

GT asked the question––“What is the factor that you consider as the most important?” The “Quality of Life” factor was noticeably the leading factor with 28 percent of the total replies, followed up by “People.” The least significant factor was “Company Practices.” From this, it is possible to conclude the following about the growing trend among Generation Y: the growing importance of work-life balance, which is being able to strike the balance between work responsibilities and personal commitments. Also, the survey reaffirmed our assumption that the business environment today is more about “people-skills,” where not only the work itself but also the people with whom one works with—from customers to co-workers and managers—have become one of the most important factors to consider in a job.

 2. Should the Company Put Forth Efforts to Help Employees Realize Career Aspiration and Develop Professionally?

Generation Y responded that the company needs to try and help employees realize their career aspiration and fulfill it, the average being 4.74 out of 6. Nearly 90 percent of respondents replied higher or equal to 4. It is notable, as can be seen from the above graph, that Generation Y students with a humanities background feel more strongly that the company has such an obligation. There were remarkably more students who marked a 6 out of 6 with a humanities background than those with a science & engineering one, while more students majoring in science & engineering responded with a 2 or 3 out of 6 than those studying humanities.

3. Working Overtime has ---- Effect on the Company’s Performance

Generation Y generally regarded working overtime as negative. About 25.7 percent chose the 2, scale 1 being the most negative, while only 6.5 percent said it is highly positive, choosing 6. The average was 3.14 out of 6. However, to a question of whether they are willing to work extra hours needed for the completion of work, 57 percent answered positively, choosing 4 to 6. Students of humanities and science & engineering did not show much difference on this matter, neither did students of first or second year nor third or fourth year.

4. Do Manager’s Supervision and Feedback Affect Employees’ Work Engagement?

Regarding the question of whether the manager’s supervision and feedback affect work engagement, Generation Y gave 4.6 points out of the total of 6, signifying its importance. Especially, students from the humanities campus agreed more strongly than those from the science campus to the statement that manager’s supervision and feedback have a correlation with employees’ work engagement. Regarding the differences in school year (first and second year / third and fourth year) and gender (male / female), there was no noticeable gap.

5. After Fulfilling a Task, Should an Employeebe Recognized for it?

Generation Y highly valued a company being outcome-oriented, with the average be 4.5 out of 6. However, more interestingly, not only do they work for outcomes, but they seem to also want emotional rewards from their superior. Asked how much emotional reward they would want for their work outcome, Generation Y responded with an average of 4.60 out of 6. Looking in more depth for any meaningful differences between sub-groups, it is notable that Generation Y students with a humanities background had a stronger desire for emotional reward. Especially noteworthy is almost three times more students with a humanities background who responded with a 6 than those with a science & engineering background. 

The characteristics of Generation Y mentioned in GT’s September issue are reflected in its needs and wants for its future work environment. Although it might differ from person to person, people of Generation Y seem to have common expectations and criteria for work. Next year in January, Aon Hewitt publishes the results of its BEK 2013 research. GT is looking forward to its upcoming results and all it has to offer. Our March issue will contain the final piece of this Aon Hewitt-GT collaborative feature, where we will cover the comparison between 2013 BEK results and the results of this very survey.


Case Study 

Companies qualified as Best Employers may difter in size, ranging form large firms to small and medium sized firms. Yet, according to BEK 2011, they had something in common that made them The Best.


Judge’s Comment

Professor Song Young Soo (Educational Technology, Hanyang University) 

“The Best Employers Korea 2011’s shared characteristics were as follows: CEO’s strong leadership, successful business performance, strategic human resources management, and smooth communication. Moreover, the CEOs were sufficient in giving clear visions to its employees.” 



“It Is All About the Employees”, Microsoft Korea 

Microsoft is one of the most familiar names that we see or hear on a daily basis; as established its name is, so is its reputation for being a good place to work at. Microsoft Korea shares its secrets behind winning the titles of Microsoft’s Worldwide Best Country for three consecutive years and Aon Hewitt’s Top 10 Best Employers in Korea in 2011. 

▲ Jung Jae-Hong, Staffing Manager of HR department of Microsoft Korea. Photographed by Park Jin Yung

Rather than merely pointing out to the systematic policies, Microsoft takes a step forward, focusing on employees. “On top of the question whether the company has systems ready for its employees, what’s more important is that the employees have a thorough understanding of their company’s rules, and develops a sense of pride and devotion for the company,” says Jung Jae-Hong (43, Hwaseong), Staffing Manager of Human Resources (HR) department of Microsoft. Through New Employee Orientation (NEO) and casual mentoring system, Microsoft’s employees learn about the company’s values and regulations. Moreover, through the proud fact that Microsoft Korea has been chosen as Microsoft’s Worldwide Best Country for three years in a row, employees’ affection for and pride of the company grows, boosting loyalty. According to Jung, these underlying factors form the sturdy foundation for the company to grow strong.

Of course, pride is not only what employees get for the big title; the prize money is distributed to the employees in the form of bonuses or other compensations. This leads to yet another feature of Microsoft—a culture of incentive-based system. Naturally, like other multinational corporations in Korea, Microsoft takes performance-based system in promotion and employee assessments. Based on the standardized process, one takes what they rightfully deserve according to their performance.

Another big feature of Microsoft—that is also shared commonly among most multinational companies—is that it highlights diversity. Especially, Jung emphasizes on women, saying “Microsoft Korea is trying hard to raise diversity at the workplace, and is trying to recruit more female employees.” According to him, Microsoft is trying to go beyond the average of 20~25 percent of female employee rates in IT business. One of the ways to attract female jobseekers may be the flexible work system; through consultation with one’s manager, an employee may settle on the time and place that they find most efficient to practice their full capacity. For instance, one may decide to work at home, or come to the office at their preference on permission.

Speaking of culture, Microsoft Korea’s identity as a large foreign affiliated corporation located in Korea sets it apart from other Microsoft’s branches. “Mostly, Microsoft’s branches all over the world share a very similar culture based on its global standard; however, there is also a tint of locality that makes each branch’s atmosphere unique,” says Jung. In order to observe the similarities and differences, it is crucial to study Microsoft’sinitiation. Basically, having being founded by developers, Microsoft’s culture was greatly influenced by people who welcome challenge, are accustomed to critically evaluating oneself, and are open-minded. From this results one of the strong points of Microsoft––the decisions are made fast. Unlike some Korea-based companies, Microsoft puts little weight in the format, shortening the approval process. However, Microsoft Korea has a touch of Korean culture within the company, such as jeong (a sense of affection and attachment).

Jung describes Generation Y from his work experience as “novel and challenging”. For those of Generation Y, Microsoft offers an attractive opportunity named MACH—Microsoft Academy for College Hire—which is a sort of internship program mainly focused on on-the-job training. Those who have participated in MACH would receive exclusive job opportunities at Microsoft. So, how to get the internship? As Microsoft’s main interest is people-based, the most important factor is the possibilities that holds for an individual. Indeed, Microsoft’s Staffing Manager of Human Resources exact words were, “We see whether the potential employee has the necessary skill set. But most importantly, we look for the possibilities for long-term success, or in other words, potential.”



Small Yet Strong, Satrec Initiative (SI) 

Located in Daejeon, with fewer than 200 employees and a rather short history, this fledging enterprise seems to possess all qualities unfavorable to the growth of a company. Yet this satellite company, Satrec Initiative, even under these circumstances, was chosen as one of the Best Employers in Korea 2011 by Aon Hewitt. 

Satrec Initiative has been conducting self-diagnosis on its corporate system every three years in order to improve employees’ working conditions and satisfaction toward their work. Accordingly, it participated in the BEK 2011 research for the first time to receive a benchmark on corporate culture, employee satisfaction, engagement level, and other HR components compared to other major firms. Surprisingly, this small-sized firm rose to be one of the Best Employers in Korea 2011.

Kang Changwan, the manager of HR & Administration Team at Satrec Initiative comments, “What enabled our company to rise to the top of the list was the ‘blind test’ of BEK 2011 research, which objectively measured the employee satisfaction level and engagement level from a pure HR point of view.” BEK 2011 research was conducted in a way that the CEO (Chief Executive Officer) and the employees would be surveyed separately and randomly, so the result cannot be fabricated. Since so few companies have shown a high level of alignment with the CEO’s point of view, HR system, and employees’ opinions, Satrec Initiative’s success in this sense comes as a surprise. Kang adds, “The management level’s consideration for its employees, which is reflected in the HR system and the employees’ willingness to recognize the benefits they are receiving, all explains our company’s performance in the BEK 2011 research.

Indeed two of the most distinguished features of Satrec Initiative’s corporate culture and HR structure are consideration for employees and merit system. The manager Kang explains, “If a company wants to satisfy its customers, it must satisfy its employees first.” To meet this goal, the corporation practices a wide range of benefits.

Primarily, employees are subject to a flexible work schedule, without anyone interfering with when one should show up, as long as the employee works a specified amount of time. Also, there is no restriction on using designated days of vacation. What is more unconventional in the business field is that Satrec Initiative grants as long as a year of vacation for those who have worked over 10 years. “Many employees who received this benefit utilized the time to re-energize themselves, such as taking a MBA course,” says Kang.

Besides these benefits, Satrec Initiative employs a merit-based reward system, in which work performance of employees would be classified into four groups, and the incentives are paid accordingly. “Incentive payment sometimes amounts to 18 percent of the annual salary, and the gap between the highest group and the lowest group reaches 14.5 times at most.” Promotion is based on merit as well. Employees who are eligible for promotion are required to give “role-presentation” in English to the management level, in which wanna-be promoters explain and present their achievements and contributions, both in the past and the future. Kang adds, “Employees are solely evaluated on their current roles, achievements, and potential, not by gender or education level.”

Thanks to its corporate culture that greatly considers employees and its reward system based on merit, the continuous service year is five years, with low turnover rates at four percent. To further enhance communication among employees, Satrec Initiative encourages and supports various internal club activities, organizes events for employees’ families and yearly workshops in which all employees discuss the yearly plan, and holds weekly meetings for each department. Furthermore, senior employees and junior employees are connected in a mentor/protégé relationship, enhancing communication between the top and bottom.

Nowadays, to-be graduates often consider only conglomerates or large firms as their future workplaces. As seen in the case of Satrec Initiative, however, size might not function as big a factor in the employees’ working environment, benefits they receive, and their career development. Shin Sungpil, the Practice Leader of AON Hewitt, concludes, “In order for a corporate to develop, not only business strategy but also dedication and satisfaction of employees matter. It is becoming more and more important for to-be graduates to consider their future jobs based not on the company size, but on the corporate culture that enables them to engage themselves with passion.”

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