The Employer Choice Behavior of Generation Y








Which values ​​and attitudes determine the ideas of Generation Y concerning their ideal working environment and their job seeking behavior? How should companies deal with the challenges of the changing needs and expectations of these high-skilled and self-confident young people?

A current collaborative study conducted by HHL’s SVI-Endowed Chair of Marketing and Enactus e.V. tries to answer these questions. Based on an online survey, a comprehensive data set was collected of more than 1,000 students of the Generation Y.

In a first step, the general value orientation of the respondents was examined. Therefore, the well validated Portrait Value Questionnaire of Schwartz was used in the short 21-item version. In particular, aspects such as loyalty, tolerance and freedom of choice are emphasized as the main values in life​, while striving for status symbols, rule conformity and tradition show clearly lower ratings.

The analyses also show that the Generation Y is not as homogenous as is often claimed in literature. With the help of a cluster analysis, four different so-called value types could be found and described. Around one third of the responding students belong to the “risk-affine team players” and another third could be characterized as “dutiful preservers”. While the risk-affine team players show above-average values on the values stimulation and hedonism, they significantly reject the items achievement and power. By contrast, the dutiful preservers show a strikingly low tendency to stimulation and self-direction, but their actions are heavily influenced by the values ​​of security and conformity. Already in this brief characterization it can be seen that the Generation Y is very heterogeneous. In addition, we have identified two smaller clusters: The “ambitious value-conscious people” ​​(23 % of the sample) and the “performance-oriented ego-tactician” (10 %).

Folie2The requests which the Generation Y addresses towards a potential employer were captured through 39 items which can be divided into concrete job requirements (e.g. challenging tasks, development opportunities) and general characteristics of the company (e.g. good reputation, high innovation). In accordance with other studies the concrete job requirements dominate the employer choice behavior. Over 95 % of the respondents search for a good and fair working environment as well as promotion/development and training opportunities (see figure left). The most important general characteristics of the company are the congruency of values (# 6), future orientation (# 9) and a personally compelling business model (# 10).

One main focus of the study was to analyze the phenomenon of the sense of work for Generation Y members. Throughout the whole questionnaire, the term “sense” was deliberately avoided because it is understood very differently by each respondent. Instead of that, 12 dimensions were used to explain the sense of work. These dimensions cover different basic needs and motives (e.g. learning, recognition) which could be satisfied with the help of gainful employment. To distinguish those respondents who experience a deeper sense out of their work from those ones who only work to gain money and search their sense of life in other fields outside of the working environment, we asked the lottery question: “How many hours per week would you work if you won a handsome profit in the lottery which sufficed to finance your life without any difficulty?”. Only 20 of the more than 1,000 respondents would completely quit working in such a scenario. On average, the interviewees would reduce their workload by 30 %. There are also 155 students who would continue working in the same extent even if they are financially independent. From the comparison of respondents who highly gain sense out of their work (limitation of working hours < 30 %) with the remaining interviewees, it could be demonstrated that the Generation Y sees the sense of work in five main dimensions: social commitment of the company, participation opportunities, challenges in everyday work, learning from others and quality-orientated colleagues. Those companies that succeed in gaining and efficiently integrating those persons who highly gain sense out of work, possess an above-averagely motivated staff. In this respect, the identified dimensions of sense could be used to achieve a long-term employee retention of Generation Y members.

Folie4Last but not least, the respondents were asked to characterize their ideal future work environment based on ten scales with pairs of opposites (Likert scale; see figure left). It is obvious that the Generation Y expects a high degree of individual responsibility and self-determined work (both 62 %). Furthermore, they like to deal with new and challenging tasks (58 %) and anticipate an event-related, immediate feedback (55 %). 56 % of the respondents tend to work in an international environment. Despite their internet affinity, which evokes the nickname “digital natives”, the Generation Y values personal contacts (58 %) in business life more than digital and networked working spaces. The safety orientation is reflected in the desire for one single employer (80 %) and the willingness to accept a lower total remuneration, if this is associated with a higher fixed salary (53.5 %). In the total sample, no clear tendencies to one of the poles could be identified on the scales manifold travel activity vs. one fixed working place as well as autonomy vs. team/group work.

If you like go get more insights in the comprehensive results, please visit the website of Enactus ( and order the Executive summary or the entire report of the study.