Generation Y: Learning and Working

Are Generation Y actually different? What has made them the way they are? Are there appropriate new ways of working and learning?

This project was conducted in 2009 and looked specifically at Generation Y: learning and working. It provides a knowledge base which can be used to inform and initiate discussion on educational policy, parenting, recruitment and staff development.

The main purpose of the project was to explore Generation Y in detail:

  • to separate the myths from the real behaviours and needs of this generation;
  • to understand how different generations view each other and
  • explore what impact that has for work and for learning and development in a mixed generation environment

with the ultimate aim of providing recommendations to assist with learning, teaching and workplace practices of the future.

Key Messages to emerge from the research

  • Media hype has produced a largely untrue image of Generation Y, which may be restricting their potential in the workplace and society.
  • Just like any other group of human beings, Generation Y is made up of individuals. There are wide variations in their attitudes and behaviour.
  • The generational landscape is complex, with many different influences and variables. Teasing out real cause and effect is a challenge.
  • Generational boundaries of about 20 years do not accurately represent the backgrounds and behaviours of cohesive groups. Instead, Generation X and the Baby Boomers are better represented by being split into two ten-year cohorts, and the same may be true of Generation Y as it matures.
  • Viewpoint is important. How each person sees him/herself and how others may see that person is often different and leads to stereotyped images of Generation Y and of older generations by Generation Y.
  • Many of the attitudes and behaviours of people are more a reflection of their age than their generation.
  • The current education system is largely failing this generation in terms of preparation for the workforce, especially concerning communication and numerical skills, approaches to learning, creativity, working with others and rewards and development.
  • Core behaviours and attitudes that need focus when working with Generation Y include: confidence, ambition, self-awareness, communication, resilience and maturity.
  • Generation Y are very adaptable in terms of technology but have as varied skill levels as older generations.
  • It is more critical than ever before that the [Generation Y] individual and the organisation or group where they work are matched in terms of culture and attitude to ensure success.
  • Give me a child until he is seven and I will give you the man.” Many of the issues with Generation Y highlighted in this report have been created when they were very young. The focus has been to blame Generation Y for their bad behaviour and yet the older generations have the ultimate responsibility.

Download the report for more information



Our inter-generational research is ongoing, and builds on previous research projects. An overview of our Generation Y research can be found here, or see our individual project pages for more information:

Great Expectations: Managing Generation Y (2011)

Culture Shock! Generation Y and their managers around the world (2012)