8 Characteristics of Generation Y in the Workplace

By Jennifer Herrity

Updated June 7, 2022 | Published December 12, 2019

Updated June 7, 2022

Published December 12, 2019

Jennifer Herrity is a seasoned career services professional with 12+ years of experience in career coaching, recruiting and leadership roles with the purpose of helping others to find their best-fit jobs. She helps people navigate the job search process through one-on-one career coaching, webinars, workshops, articles and career advice videos on Indeed's YouTube channel.

Generation Y, also known as millennials or the Millennial Generation, often have certain skills and behaviors that make them unique and valuable employees. Knowing the strengths of this tech-savvy and ambitious generation can help you form successful office collaborations. 

In this article, we explore eight common characteristics of Generation Y in the workplace.

What is Generation Y?

Generation Y is a demographic that is characterized by people who were born between 1981 to 1996. A few people born outside of the generational range might have millennial characteristics of the millennial generation, even though they may technically be Generation X or Generation Z.

Generations defined

It may be helpful to know where one generation ends and the next begins. Below is a breakdown of each generation's timeline with common traits.

Silent Generation/Traditionalists

  • Born before 1946

  • Seek comfort and financial security, traditional, loyal

Baby Boomers

  • Born 1946-1964

  • Strong work ethic, disciplined, focused

Generation X

  • Born 1965-1980

  • Entrepreneurial, value work-life balance, independent

Generation Y/Millennials

  • Born 1981-1996

  • Value work-life balance, confident, tech-savvy

Generation Z

  • Born 1997-2015

  • Independent, entrepreneurial, competitive

Related: Your Guide to Generations in the Workplace

Common characteristics of Generation Y

While each individual has a unique personality, many people within the same generation share common characteristics. Here are some of the traits you could expect from millennials as recognized by FamilySearch.org

Please note that no company mentioned in this article is affiliated with Indeed. 

1. Gen Y is tech-savvy

Generation Y is the first generation to grow up with the internet, cell phones and digital communication. “Digital natives'' is a term often used to describe people who grew up tech-savvy. These professionals are comfortable learning and using the latest software releases in the workplace. They may find it easier to learn new software, such as shared chat platforms.

2. Gen Y values flexibility

Many millennials prefer a flexible work schedule and workplace. Since many millennials hold computer-based jobs, they may seek positions that are at least partly remote and allow them to work outside of a traditional 9-to-5 schedule.

Related: 11 Online Jobs for Work Flexibility

3. Gen Y seeks work-life balance

Gen Ys usually seek positions in which they can have a solid work-life balance. They prefer jobs that allow them to spend more time with their family and/or pursue personal goals. In some cases, they may prefer a job with more flexible hours over one that offers higher pay.

4. Gen Y is results-oriented

Another reason why millennials value flexibility is that they are results-oriented. They would rather tell you what they accomplished instead of telling you how long they worked. If they can complete a project faster than the allotted amount of time, they can achieve more. The ability to list more achievements can make them feel accomplished in the workplace.

Related: What Is the Average Millennial Income? (And How To Increase It)

5. Gen Y seeks rewards and praise

Millennials grew up in a world of digital communication and social media, which could make them more dependent on praise than other generations. Sometimes, receiving praise during a team meeting from a manager can help a Gen Y employee stay motivated and productive. Attention and praise let a millennial know when they’ve exceeded expectations.

6. Gen Y are innovators

Many Gen Ys are innovative and look for new ways to be more efficient. They often ask questions about a rule or established process so they can better understand ways to make improvements. The ability to apply their knowledge of new software and technology to automate and improve processes is an invaluable asset in any office.

7. Gen Y enjoys collaboration

Instead of working individually and focusing on a specific set of tasks, members of Generation Y often try to find ways to work together to complete projects. Gen Ys won’t hesitate to step outside their departments to find solutions, whether that means consulting with someone in IT for better software or checking profitability charts with someone from accounting. This also helps foster a results-oriented workplace with everyone working toward a shared goal.

Related:10 Benefits of Collaborative Learning

8. Gen Y is ambitious

Generation Y challenges how things are done so they can reach their goals. This is an ambitious generation that wants to do something new or break a record that was previously out of reach. They’re not afraid to work hard to overcome challenges and obstacles.

Members of Generation Y try to follow the “work smarter, not harder” motto. They would rather develop a strategic solution to a problem that saves time, money and effort so they can apply that savings to other problems.

Related: How To Support Millennials In the Workplace

Common Generation Y jobs

The rise of the internet has led to a shift in job preferences for Generation Y. According to Indeed’s Hiring Lab Chartbook, members of Generation Y seek positions in fields like health care, social sciences, technology and sales more so than their generational counterparts.

Part of this transition is driven by interest. This is a generation that grew up with computers and entered the workforce as startup culture became popular. 

Here are some common jobs that Gen Ys could pursue based on the common traits and characteristics above. For the most up-to-date salary information from Indeed, please click on the link:

IT specialist

National average salary: $51,582 per year 

Primary duties: An IT specialist manages the software, hardware and networks for companies. They perform troubleshooting when issues occur and make suggestions to improve the security and performance of networks. These professionals can work in a variety of industries and typically need at least a bachelor’s degree in information technology or computer science.

Related: ​​Learn About Being an IT Specialist

Brand manager

National average salary: $65,358 per year 

Primary duties: A brand manager markets products and services to current and potential customers. They work with a marketing team to develop a company’s brand and analyze trends to determine its success. A brand manager monitors the competition to ensure their company can remain current and offer the best deals. They usually need a bachelor’s degree in marketing or a similar field and some marketing experience.

Related: Learn About Being a Brand Manager

Registered nurse

National average salary: $88,828 per year 

Primary duties: A registered nurse (RN) works with doctors to deliver care to patients. They take patient history, monitor patients, administer medication and assist in creating a treatment plan. RNs could also train other nurses in basic practices. Many RNs work in hospitals, clinics and other health care facilities. They need at least a bachelor’s degree in nursing and a license to practice.

Related: How To Become a Registered Nurse: A Complete Guide

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