Generation Y Changes Finance Stereotypes


If change is inevitable, then the ability to adapt to it is paramount. Gen Y is suited up and ready to enter the office to take up their roles as finance professionals. But what should be expected by corporates as they set up a platform for this generation.

The image that comes to mind when the words ‘finance professional’ are mention is of a strict gentleman or woman in a black suit that smells of strong black coffee with shiny black shoes. The walls of their offices are decorated with certificates that attest to the achievements of the professional. A thinker that loves silence, meetings and charts that outline plans spanning 20 years. Generation Y brings a different image though. The ACCA report titled Generation Y: Realising the potential, highlights the fact that the pool of talent for HR personnel has changed, Gen Y forms the majority of the talent and HR personnel and CFOs cannot use the same barometer to gauge the potential of this new generation.

The ‘selfie’ generation has a different outlook on life and they require that this outlook be married to all their activities including their work life. Barrie Bramley, Curious Disruptor at Calidascope, points out that unlike baby boomers, this generation place value in freedom. This can be seen in their attachment to their mobile devices like laptops, smartphones and tablets. They do not believe that they should be in the office to do their work, they believe that technology allows them to work from anywhere at any time. “It is not uncommon for this Gen Y to ask their managers for flexible business hours, or to go work on a project outside the office”, said Bramley. “It is managers that will be willing to negotiate such terms with this cohort that will get the best out of this generation”.

Gen Y does not put much value on titles, they believe in adding value. “In this age when you know enough, you are qualified enough”, said Bramley, “this generation is very informed and they have a peculiar ability to absorb information that serves them well in business. They are also colourful, they are loud and believe that this should work together in expressing themselves in their roles at work. In her book, Knowing Y: Engage the Next Generation Now, marketing and media expert Sarah Sladek lists 5 motivations that drive this generation and make them so different from the previous generations:

  • 92 percent believe that business success should be measured by more than salary
  • 80 percent prefer on-the-spot recognition over formal reviews
  • 61 percent feel personally responsible to make a difference in the world
  • 50 percent want to start their own business, or have already done so
  • 2 years is their average employment tenure

Bramley suggests that there is a shift in wisdom in the corporate world, that while Baby Boomers were able to take us to where we are now, Gen Y will be able help reach greater heights. “This is the case of ‘two rights’ that need to be amalgamated, it is not that Baby Boomers were doing it wrong, and it is not that Gen Y is juvenile and should silence their voices”, commented Bramley on the different approaches to business Gen Y and Baby Boomers have in the office.

It is HR managers and CFOs that can be willing to invest in knowing the motivations of this generation that most benefit from it. Personnel is the business’ most valuable asset, the right candidate will do wonders for the business’ bottom-line.

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