How To Employ Gen Y

As a new generation enters the workforce, credit unions may have to adjust their workplace culture toward a more engaging environment.


Gen Yers are bringing their ideals of self-expression, social engagement, high-tech multitasking, and transparency to the workforce, and credit unions that want to successfully leverage this employee base must learn how to leverage these values.

“Gen Y wants independence, self-expressive and, creative brand to relate to,” says Brent Dixon, adviser for Filene Research Institute and founder of a young professionals group for the credit union industry called The Cooperative Trust. “You want to create loyalty and trust. When you do that, they have the ability to endorse your brand through self-expression. Be the water cooler talk with Gen Y. That’s the best strategy.”

Gen Y, which is quickly becoming the most educated age group, can fill any number of positions at growing and hiring credit unions. Approximately 31% of Americans ages 25 to 29 held bachelor’s degrees in 2009 compared to the 30% of all Americans, which is a record level, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s February 2011 report.

But credit unions must earn the loyalty of this generation, which expects to change jobs frequently. Almost six in 10 employed Gen Yers say they already have switched careers at least once, and only 33% of Gen Yers say their current job is their career, according to Pew Research Center’s 2010 report, Millennials: A Portrait of Generation Next.

Managing A Generation Of Networkers

Generational differences in workplace behavior and attitudes are significant and can pose challenges in the workplace for managers trying to keep all age groups engaged, according to a February 2011 study released by LifeCourse Associates, a Great Falls, VA,-based human resources consulting company.

“Engagement is very closely linked to business outcomes – an engaged workforce is a productive workforce,” says F. Warren Wright, vice president of LifeCourse.

Gen Y wants a social workplace, hands-on guidance, and clear direction. Approximately 68% of Gen Y members say they want to make friends in their workplace and socialize informally while at work. This is approximately 10 percentage points higher than other generations, the survey concludes. They crave more mentorship than older generations and place a higher value on working with cutting edge technology, but they are less dedicated to their company’s mission statement than baby boomers are.

Gen Y craves regular feedback, but their baby boomer managers might not be providing more than an annual review because they don’t appreciate regular feedback – they want to be left alone to work independently, Wright says. Managers with Gen Y employees should consider implementing monthly meetings that address how they are doing, what their work obstacles are, and how the manager can help them.

“Managers need to understand there are differences and need to know what those differences are and what each generation values,” Wright says. “There are very different outlooks.”

Hiring Gen Y

Gen Y is drawn toward cause-driven jobs. Credit unions can take advantage of that preference by underscoring their member-focused business model and crucial roles in local economies. In return for including Gen Y within their staff ranks, credit unions will reap the reward of fresh ideas and loyalty.

“If you have the enthusiasm of youth coupled with the expertise of veterans, it could be very powerful,” says Dixon of the Cooperative Trust. “Good ideas can come from anywhere – age does not affect the quality of ideas.”

 For more about hiring Gen Y and leveraging their peer connections, see the 4Q 2011 CUSP.




April 30, 2012


  • There are some really great points in this article. I currently work for Bellco Credit Union in Denver, CO and we hold monthly dialogs with our managers in all areas of the organization. This meeting is driven by the employee and is a time for them to discuss their development, any issues, successes, and really anything they want with their manager. To help the employee recall these topics we use a tool called Connections to help facilitate the monthly dialog with their manager. I definitely appreciate these meetings and think all organizations should implement something similar.
  • Another very well conveyed message with quality references. Thank you for discussing this topic. I hesitate to stereotype too much because there are always varying degrees of how closely individuals will match up to typical. There certainly are strong similarities among generations though. Recently the book Reviving Work Ethic by Eric Chester was the selection by the Credit Union Leaders Book Club on LinkedIn. I recommend it especially from the standpoint that every credit union at some point soon will be hiring Gen Y. As this article so well points out, it's likely that the manager will be at least one generation apart from the novice who comes prepackaged with certain expectations.