Entitlement for Progress? Ask Gen Y HR

At this year’s Canada’s Top 100 Employers summit, one of the speakers made a comment that stuck with me in the weeks since. A senior executive, laughing like we’re all think the same thing, stated how “interesting” it is that Gen Y employees expect their employers to take some responsibility for their health and well-being – and yet they’re the generation known for not staying long in one place! He all but said the word I hear all too often regarding my generation: entitled.

Gen Y tends to bring down employee engagement scores and bring up turnover rates – clearly a group of great interest to an employer, and specifically an HR professional like me. But I’m not just HR – I’m an employee, too, a human being, and yes, a millennial. Not to be too dramatic, but was it entitlement that brought our workplaces above the labour conditions we find so appalling in other countries?

I took an assertiveness course once and entitlement was a term they used, but in a positive light. It’s about respecting yourself enough to be confident you are just as deserving as everyone else to speak your mind. From my experience, Gen Y are just putting a voice to what other workers want to see, but didn’t have the hope and drive to make it happen.

I thank the youth for their entitlement. We are seeing more flexible work arrangements, more resources for physical and mental health, and more support and encouragement toward professional development in new and creative ways. As an HR professional, I thank the youth for telling us what draws them to the workplace, keeps them there, and facilitates engagement.

And I accept that providing employees a health fund or fruit in the lunchroom doesn’t oblige them to stay loyal if I’m not offering what they need holistically. Sometimes more seasoned leaders need reminding that this is today’s employment relationship and it’s a good thing.

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