I think we are looking at a paradigm shift in how “work” is defined, due in large part to the social changes we created by how we raise our children. I agree with Leanne in that Gen Y brings some wonderful strengths to the table and some long overdue changes. Gen X had the same issue with the workplace as Gen Y but since we lack the collaborative instincts and networking to induce large scale change, most of us opted out of the dissatisfying working conditions that corporate institutions provided and became entrepreneurs or consultants.
The things that are changing all challenge the accepted wisdom of a 9-5 work culture and force managers to be better leaders (and people.) The 80s-00s saw very little value placed on leadership ability and more placed on technical ability, which is why many people were placed into management that did not deserve to be there…and ultimately created the negative environment GenXers fled. I see that changing somewhat (though it is still not perfect.)
The other paradigm I see changing is the 9-5, be at your desk, in your office, mentality of how work gets done in a 24/7 global culture. You can start to see the squeaks of it with ROWE and Dan Pink’s book “Drive” (vis-a-vis: Autonomy). Gen Y can get work done anywhere anytime, which I think brings many of the ill-fitting paradigms to a central point. Managers will have to get better at setting and coaching employees to produce results, not presence.
The whole notion of work/life balance is centered around this premise (the same one GenXers said when frustrated about promotions or new oppty) “if I am producing results, shouldn’t they speak for themselves?” Gen Y, with the population size, has the collective mass to change the system in a way GenXers could not. “Work” is being defined by what you do, not where you go or when. GenY and their extreme mobility and portability fit the global, eCommerce, and 24 hour expectation of work. And what is more, they lack the compartmentalization mentality of previous generations. They see work and life as intertwined, not separate so work gets done just as equally at 7:30pm as it does at 10:45am…and perhaps, depending on the person, it gets done MORE effectively since it fits that person’s style. Concepts that are emerging to support this new paradigm of “work” such as ROWE and the Netflix vacation policy (or lack thereof) see higher productivity, less turnover, reduced recruiting expense, and higher employee engagement.
So whether you call it a generational shift, societal shift, paradigm shift, or culture shift, on thing is for certain; the expectations of both employee and employer is in constant progression – maybe this is the next evolution.