What is a generation?
According to the Center for Generational Kinetics, a generation is "a segment of a geographically linked population that experiences similar social and cultural events at roughly the same time in their maturation leading to similar responses by scenario". In layman's terms, a generation is a group of people born about the same time and raised about the same place.

What is Gen Y?

This generation was born approximately between 1977 and 1995. In the US alone, there are 79.8 million members of the Gen Y. This fast-emerging generation is the most ethnically diverse generation in US history - the same holds true for most countries aroudn the world. Based on their birth years and sheer numbers, Gen Y is the fastest-growing generation in the marketplace globally. Gen Y's size and influence has led to them being called by many other different names, including:

  • Millennials
  • Digital Natices or
  • Echo Boomers

Gen Y generation-defining moments and events:

  • Challenger explosion in 1986
  • The fall of the Berlin Wall
  • the Gulf War
  • Sept 11, 2001

The exposure of these moments gives members of Gen Y a similar worldview in most countries. While generations are never a box, they are absolutely powerful clues on where to start to faster connect with an influence people of different ages so they want to engage with you. In particular, for Gen Y, their two biggest influencers are:

  1. Parenting (how they were brought up, most likely by Baby Boomer parents)
  2. Technology (from the Internet to social media and mobile)

These conclude in a similarity in the way Gen Yers communicate, respond and express their values and it is these characteristics that give a generation its unique personality and generational lens. When we think about Gen Y, the following characteristics define them: a sense of entitlement, tech-dependence, being outcome-driven.



Gen Y's sense of entitlement - fueled mostly by their Baby Boomer parents' desire to make life easier for their children than they had it - has led to a new life stage called "delayed adulthood". Meaning, Gen Y wants all the freedom of being adults without the responsibility. Additionally, this leads Gen Y to experience the traditional markers of adulthood (graduating from college, moving out of their parents' home, getting married, having their frist child) much later in life than previous generations. It also means that a 30-year-old Gen Yer might just beginning to "grow up" and is only now starting to be ready to make some traditional adult decisions (i.e. buying a place, getting married, having children, saving for retirement, etc.)



Many experts say Gen Y is tech-savvy. This claim is made based on Gen Y always using technology such as their mobile devices or Facebook. However, this is not true! The Center for Generational Kinetics' work looking into generations has revealed that Gen Y is not tech-savvy, but rather tech-dependent. Gen Y doesn't necessarily know how technology works, they just know they cannot live without it. Because of this tech-dependence, Gen Y has also changed how they prefer to communicate. When was the last time a Gen Y left you a detailed voice message? They most likely sent a text message, email, or something of the sorts.



Another misperception about Gen Y is that they are all about instant gratification. In actuality, Gen Y is not instant everything, rather something slightly different: Gen Y is outcome-driven.

This does not mean Gen Y wants everything instantly all the time, but they do not choose to think in steps or naturally connect the dots.


Gen Y communication preferences:

So back to those communication preferences touched upon earlier, there are definitely a few things that stand out for Gen Y in comparison to other generations:

  • Gen Y types fast, but may not be able to read cursive
  • Gen Y often does not feel comfortable with face-to-face communication
  • Gen Y does not use mobile phones for talking, but rather for texting and their other chat applications, web surfing and social media. That is why their voicemail is often full...they never check it.
  • Gen Y's most preferred method of communication is text messaging

Visual is how Gen Y communicates, learns, and buys. They've been conditioned not to read long blocks of text. Instead, Gen Y prefers to read from a screen and the first thing they look for is video and the "Play" button. This is why Youtube is so influential with Gen Y. Other useful visuals include info graphics and photographs. The other thing a Gen Y would prefer is bullet points.

One thing to keep in mind is that as a lot of other generations, they like to look for opinions about products to buy, movies to see, organizations and causes to join, things to do, etc, but Gen Y is more than three times likely than Boomers (22% vs 7%) to turn to social channels to seek that opinion.

Live Report - The "Gen Y Guy", Jason Dorsey: 10:11 min:


Gen Y in the workplace

It is absolutely true that Gen Y is entering the workplace at a later age than any previous generation. As a result, Gen Y often has much to learn about workplace polices, best practices, etc. However, Gen Y is entering the workplace with more college degrees than any generation before them. They also expect to compete on a global level for their entire lives, and without any expectation of Social Security of lifetime employment. In fact, many Gen Yers just assume they won't retire, so they might as well find more life balance now.



Millennials Will Change the World : 8:08 min:


Knowing this about Gen Y, how can we as Rotarians engage this group and bring them on as Rotary members?


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