You'd think Generation Y professionals would be the least equipped to weather a recession and layoffs. After all, this is the generation whose "helicopter parents" hovered over their every move, catered to their every caprice and taught them that they were all winners.
This is also the generation that's proven very demanding in the workplace. According to a CareerBuilder survey from 2007, 74 percent of employers say Gen Y workers expect to be paid more; 56 percent of employers say Gen Y workers expect to be promoted within a year; and half say Gen Y professionals expect more vacation and personal time than older generations.
Generation Y is totally different from the generation that preceded it, the scrappy, do-it-yourself latch-key kids (like myself) who make up Generation X. As a result, they seem ill-prepared to handle the vicious vicissitudes of corporate life during an economic downturn.
But we may be underestimating Generation Y. Workplace and Gen Y experts say this group of whippersnappers may actually be better prepared to weather a recession and handle a layoff than Generation X and Boomers. Here's why.
1. They have weaker ties to corporate America
Gen Y professionals are known for not feeling the same sense of loyalty to their employers that has bound members of Generation X and Baby Boomer to their jobs, says Lisa Orrell, a generational relations expert and author of Millenials Incorporated . That's because Generation Y saw first-hand what their Baby Boomer and older Gen X parents got for their loyalty to their employers during economic downturns: bupkus. They saw their parents get laid off. They saw their parents' pensions disappear. They saw their parents get meager severance packages. Consequently, says Orrell, these older generations taught their Gen Y kids to put their own well-being before their employers' needs.
"Their parents are preaching, 'Don't make the same mistakes your mom and I did. Your father put 22 years into XYX company only to be laid off'," says Orrell. "Their parents are telling them. 'Look out for yourself and life is too damn short. If you're not feeling valued and respected in your job, even in an entry-level position, get the heck out and find another one.' "
Rosemary Haefner, CareerBuilder VP of human resources, notes that this cavalier attitude Gen Y has toward its employers might make it easier for Gen Y to cope with layoffs or to decide to find a new job before they get the axe.
"What we know around Gen Y workers is that they're not bound to one place, one employer, one job," says Haefner. "In a time of uncertainty, that might help them work through what's happening with less emotional trauma. They might not be as emotionally tied [to the job] and it might help them make decisions quicker."
2. They work cheap
It's no secret that companies sometimes cut higher-paid workers during a layoff to save some money in the short term. So Generation Y professionals may be better positioned to survive a layoff based purely on the fact that because they're younger and less experienced, they're paid less, says Orrell. They might even get a promotion out of it.
"Companies might get rid of senior executives and front line mangers who are being paid higher salaries to cut fat and where they could move a younger person into those positions for less pay," she says.
Join the CIO Australia group on LinkedIn. The group is open to CIOs, IT Directors, COOs, CTOs and senior IT managers.