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Generation Y workers: An empirical framework for cultural and organizational aspects

Davide Torsello (Department of Economics and Business, Central European University, Budapest, Hungary) (Department of Anthropology, Stanford University, Palo Alto, California, USA)

Employee Relations

ISSN: 0142-5455

Article publication date: 1 August 2019

Issue publication date: 16 September 2019




The purpose of this paper is to disentangle the different and sometimes controversial aspects of Generation Y workers’ behavior at the workplace and to provide real-life answers to human resource management and the study of employee relations.


The study makes use of an empirical research framework to assess dominant preferences, values and patterns of behavior in workplaces where Generation Y employees have demographic relevance. The main research questions that this paper will address are: RQ1: What are the main features of organizational culture that are deemed functionally important to their job satisfaction by Generation Y workers? RQ2: Which are the general societal and generational values that affect most prominently their behavioral responses to duties and tasks in the workplace? RQ3: How do millennial workers perceive the gap between a real and an ideal organization in which they work in interactional and behavioral terms? The methodology includes a survey and interviews conducted in a multinational corporation based in Budapest. The theoretical framework is the one developed by Margaret Mead (1970) on value preferences and their generational change.


When generational values and behavioral patterns are not in harmony with the proper organizational cultural aspects of the company high attrition rates become manifest. Generation Y workers can be defined as cofigurate culture (Mead, 1970) in the sense that this generation encapsulates innovative aspects in some bridging features to the previous generation (Generation X). This is one of the aspects that may account for the conflicting social and work values that characterize work relations between Generation Y and X employees. Moreover, because of the three different domains on which work satisfaction is built (social, organizational and cultural) Generation Y workers will aim to strike a balance between expectations, ideas about what a good organization should look like and real-life experiences.

Research limitations/implications

Since the research concerns only one company case study, its scope is limited. In particular, empirical approaches to the study of employee relations with Generation Y workers are still few and more research is needed to fill this gap.

Practical implications

Millennial workers are not simply part of a different generation, as they actually share some value aspects and orientations of the previous generation. The practical implication is that the behavioral and organizational features that bridge Generation X and Y preferences should be detected in order to improve employee relations. Second, paying attention to the social, cultural and organizational features that Generation Y workers deem as important when describing their daily work experiences, it is possible to limit miscommunication and reduce attrition rates.

Social implications

The study of generational features and tendencies at the workplace is an important social field since it brings new insights into work relations and leadership. Treating the Generation Y as a cofigurate culture helps to bring together cultural and social preferences with values built on the workplace and in the social context of belonging.


The paper provides an original contribution to the study of generational, social and organizational aspects concerning the daily work experience of millennials in a corporation. The study builds an empirical framework in which the value aspects that shape the everyday reality of employee relations are measured and triangulated with qualitative data from ethnographic interviews. This paper can be of interest both to academic and to practitioners, thanks to its strong practical application to human resource management.



Torsello, D. (2019), "Generation Y workers: An empirical framework for cultural and organizational aspects", Employee Relations, Vol. 41 No. 6, pp. 1330-1347.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2019, Emerald Publishing Limited

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