Could you live without the Internet? Gen Y says no. | Blog | Kelly Services

Could you live without the Internet? Gen Y says no. 

By Lance J. Richards, VP Office of Innovation
October 4th 2013 

Members of Gen Y place a high value on connectivity. In fact, a recent Cisco report found that more than half of Gen Y students felt that they could not live without the Internet. Yes, you read that correctly, "could not live" without it. Perhaps they don't actually feel that they may die without the web (some may!), but they almost certainly feel that their lives would be vastly different without this avenue to constant connection. And in many ways, they may be justified for feeling this way.

After all, let's consider how they've grown up. From their earliest childhood, members of Gen Y have used technology and devices to connect them with learning, knowledge, information, entertainment—and people. When many of the Ys were entering their high school years—when they were laying the foundations of their peer-to-peer relationships—the Internet quickly transformed from an online library (of sorts) into an environment of ‘user-generated content’ and individual expression. The birth of sites like Facebook was upon us all - and the Ys were the early adopters.


Connectivity and self-expression is what Ys expect because they've always had it. They are the ‘Now’ generation because they can be—and it has made them more open, less concerned with privacy and often less likely to keep their opinions to themselves. This mindset has its pros and cons! 

As a digitally connected generation, Gen Y has also been afforded the luxury of exploring diversity for much of their formative years. This understanding and appreciation of cultural difference and inclusion has exposed them to social issues and diverse needs. Yet, consider how different these expectations and experiences are from what the average workplace actually delivers. 

When social media posts elicit immediate feedback yet career reviews occur only once or twice per year, Gen Ys experience a major disconnect. If we, as older managers, underestimate this ‘validation/feedback gap’ we will have a serious slide in motivation on our hands—one that we will quite literally 'pay' for in productivity and turnover costs. 

While organisations large and small have focused their efforts on developing the kind of one-way, top-down monologue that favours platitudes over specifics and transparency, Gen Y has led the charge in communicating every topic—from the Boston bombings to Justin Bieber—in just 140 characters. They have had much more experience with making productive connections across traditional boundaries and are generally more participative with larger and vastly more transparent networks. 

Gen Ys are far less inclined to ‘get’ hierarchies, or to take them at face value. Gen Ys much prefer intricately, although fully, connected, cross-functional ways of operating regardless of location, rank or role. They prefer dialogue and informality, which is in stark contrast to how many businesses communicate or how most managers manage!   

It’s the difference between hierarchy and collaboration. 

The Gen Y reach is global, 24/7 and it will join any conversation that seems relevant or interesting, ready or not. And this is what many organisations are still struggling to integrate into their thinking, systems, processes and structures. 

From the traditional employer point of view, work really hasn’t changed all that much in the past five or six decades. Work is work, and that’s how it will be for the foreseeable future—just as soon as younger generations get with the status quo, that is. But the reality is, work has changed, the workplace has changed, and so has the workforce. Get used to it. As far as the Millennial sees it, work is in flux, just as the rest of the world is. Nothing is stable, static or long-term, nor should it be. Here’s a staggering thought— the redefined workforce has redefined the workplace. And Gen Y sees REVOLUTION. Just how ready do you think most organisations are for that? 


To read the full report on Generation Y and organisational responses to it, download the Gen Now ebook now.