Generation Y: Powerhouse of the Global Economy

Restless generation is a challenge – and a huge opportunity – for employers


Generation Y (14 to 27 years old) is often tagged as a self-entitled group raised during prosperous economic times, placed on pedestals by their doting baby boomer parents. In the context of the workplace, they’ve been described as overly ambitious dreamers who don’t want to pay their dues and are only concerned about higher pay and more time off.

Deloitte’s latest snapshot on the Gen Yers who are already in our work force finds that these characterizations miss the story: Gen Yers are a hidden powerhouse of employee potential, critical for global business in tough times. Future-oriented, ready to contribute now, opportunity-driven: these are the characteristics of a generation that is already making its mark on the work world. They remain optimistic in the midst of the current economic turmoil. But Gen Yers are also highly restless. The generation brought up in an era of rapid technological change will seek to earn greater opportunities for rapid advancement and more responsibilities at a younger age, requiring organizations to change the way they attract, develop, promote and retain these talented individuals.

In short, they’re fundamentally different from other iconic generations. Unlike Ernest Hemingway’s “Lost Generation,” Gen Y is confident and optimistic. Unlike Jack Kerouac’s “Beat Generation,” Gen Y is eagerly engaged with society. Unlike Timothy Leary’s Vietnam-era Generation, Gen Yers trust people over 30 and are eager to learn from and work with older mentors. The way employers respond will determine whether they can tap this hidden powerhouse of employee potential in a time of tight budgets and economic uncertainty – or lose them to their competition.

The Opportunity, the Challenge…and the Risk

Deloitte’s snapshot of Gen Y work force attitudes makes clear that Gen Y presents both a huge opportunity and a huge challenge for today’s employers.

The Opportunity

  • They’re more eager to contribute and take on responsibility earlier in their careers than prior generations.
  • Eager to advance, they are ready to take on tough challenges and work toward ambitious goals.
  • Although they expect competitive pay, they highly value meaningful development opportunities.
  • They are full of fresh insight on how best to reach their peers in the consumer market.
  • They’re a diverse and inclusive generation that’s been taught to collaborate and work with teams, critical skills in a highly specialized global economy.
  • They welcome the chance to partner with older, more experienced colleagues and bosses — this intergenerational teamwork carries particular promise in tough economic times. With adaptation and innovation becoming an even more urgent business priority, combining the tech savvy and fresh insight of Generation Y with the experience and perspective of the older generations can be especially fruitful.

The Challenge
Most traditional organizations are not set up to recognize and harness this restless talent pool. If Gen Yers don’t have opportunities to contribute, they’re likely to move on in search of growth.

  • Organizations must foster a culture of respect that extends to all employees, regardless of age or level in the organization.
  • Employers need to examine the career development and mentoring opportunities offered to younger employees.
  • Employers must redesign performance management and rewards systems to encourage the rapid development of Gen Y talent and to create new incentives for seasoned workers to act as mentors to young professionals

The Risk

  • In this risky economic environment, the energy, insight and high-tech know-how of Gen Yers will be essential for all high-performing organizations, especially those that have downsized their work force and desperately need to find new ways to be more profitable.
  • Organizations that do not take advantage of the promise of intergenerational collaboration risk becoming irrelevant and obsolete.

So What Does This Mean for Employers? 

Amid the many other challenges facing organizations in the current global economic environment, recruiting and retaining the best workers of Gen Y is vital to supporting growth initiatives today and in the future. The kinds of career and development opportunities Gen Y is asking for are going to require significant rethinking and retooling of how organizations are set up, how work is designed, and how people are managed and rewarded. Organizations need to act now.


In this report, we analyze the following key findings from the survey:

  1. Generation Y is confident at a time of high anxiety
  2. Generation Y values opportunity over job security
  3. Gen Y wants – and is receiving – more responsibility, earlier
  4. Gen Y trusts superiors and wants to work with them

To learn more, download the full report below

As used in this document, ‘Deloitte’ means Deloitte LLP (and its subsidiaries). Please see for a detailed description of the legal structure of Deloitte LLP and its subsidiaries.