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Does Gen Y Complete Work Faster Than Everyone Else?

Avatar of Andrew Krzmarzick
Andrew Krzmarzick

A few weeks ago, my colleague Emily Jarvis summarized an interview with Tom Fox from the Partnership for Public Service under the title, “For Young Feds, Is the Pace of Government Change Too Slow?” It sparked a pretty spirit discussion and it got me thinking about a different question:

Does Gen Y, in general, complete work faster than the rest of us?

In working with several Gen Y colleagues, I’ve found their pace of work to be extraordinarily speedy – much faster than what I’ve encountered in other organizations where the average age was a bit higher. The turnaround on most discrete tasks is blazingly fast and overall project completion happens at a blistering pace. I always felt like I was moving at 90 miles an hour myself, but my experience lately has been more like driving on a German autobahn with folks flying past me at 187 MPH or more!

I’ve been trying to think about the reasons for this reality and what I’m coming up with (based on some generational theory coupled with direct experience) is this:

  • adroit use of the web accelerates time to answer on research and writing
  • innate facility with tech tools speeds production processes
  • keyboarding and phone-based texting skills quicken thought to page from anywhere
  • team-based preference (vs. individual achievement of Boomers / Gen X) creates force multiplication on project completion
  • active lifestyle growing up (think of how scheduled this generation has been) necessitates rapid completion of tasks
  • business pace in general has precipitated a “get it done fast” mentality that filters into educational settings and reinforces prioritization of velocity

Now – speed can be beneficial, but it presents its own set of challenges as well. For me, when I work too fast, I tend to make more errors. I also think it can lead to communications issues that might otherwise be avoided. Lastly, I wonder if a heightened pace makes us all a little more stressed out, which ultimately leads to quicker burnout.

I’m curious to learn your experience:

  • Does Gen Y seem to work faster in your office?
  • Does that speed help or hinder your projects?
  • Do you think the default to “get ‘er done” is a generational thing…or is the pace of work just picking up in general?

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19 Comments

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Bryce Bender

Andy – I think I generally agree with reasons for the increased speed. I know when I’m assigned a task the first question I ask myself is “where is the information I need located?” The answer to the question is usually on Google, so with good Googling “skills” and use of keyboard shortcuts you can cut down little moments that add up in the long run. (I think I’ve had a proper keyboarding class throughout elementary and middle school from 2nd grade – 8th grade so that helps a bunch.)

I know that I have held a consistent job since I was 15 and those earlier jobs were all fast-paced service oriented where speed was the most important factor. I think that my mentality for getting things done has always revolved around the fastest route to the end goal and efficiency. So with this mentality and people my age having always grown up around technology it just fosters unique skills that an older generation may have not been accustomed to.

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Joe Flood

I don’t think this is limited to Gen Y. It is more of an organizational issue. Organizations that are consensus-or process-driven can take a long time to make a decision. For example, a staffer might be asked to write a tweet. Great – that took a minute. But then the tweet has to wound its way around the bureaucracy before it is approved. These cumbersome processes can make anyone impatient.

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Andrew Krzmarzick

Terry – Do you think technology has helped you to work faster? Are you seeing one group of people (the tech-savvy, regardless of age) being more productive than another?

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Cynthia Hinkle

Andrew- I notice when my boss and I are working on something (he is around my parents age and I am 23) many times if we are working on the same task I will finish my part in almost half the time it takes him to complete it. I attribute some of that to knowing shortcuts on the keyboard and having a greater understanding of the computer programs. I also notice that many times he passes tasks off to me (sometimes I see it as a compliment) and I am asked to complete them. Some tasks include excel documents, typing up letters, running reports on a program we use, and anything else he sees as “difficult”. I am usually able to complete these tasks with no glitches and in a very short amount of time. Sometimes it does get annoying that I am able to complete them so quickly because I feel as though I run out of things to do, but I know I have just completed a lot of work. It is just the difference between generations and the ability to link things completely different in our brains. While older generations see things very linear we see things in a matrix making many things make more sense and link together more easily.

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Dannielle Blumenthal

The different generations each bring something valuable to the mix. Speed is a superficial metric. Generally speaking, in my experience–

* Matures make decisions quickly but they don’t force those decisions on others. They tend to avoid, avert, and deny conflict. So they tend to say little, leaving it to Boomers to figure out how to implement.

* Boomers don’t make decisions quickly because they are extremely (extraordinarily) thoughtful to the various stakeholders and how they will be affected. Boomers are slower to learn technology but once they get it, they get it and tend to overuse it in fact (e.g. email). Again this is generalizing and other people’s experiences of course will vary.

* Gen Xers are very direct, very results oriented and very individualistic. They (we) work quickly but they have difficulty with the concept of consensus outside their small trusted work circle. It’s literally a mystery. Xers are very good with technology and they use it to work around conflict issues.

* Gen Yers play by the rules. They give you exactly what you ask for. And they try to work very quickly. Speed is of the essence. The problem is that they tend to operate on a superficial level. For two reasons. First, they’re encouraged to stay in their lane – and they were raised to follow the rules generally so this feels natural. Second, they were raised on Google search etc. and not like us old people in the library with the card catalog. So their expectations of results involve instant gratification. Gen Yers have the advantage of working better in teams than individually and this adds to their ability to be speedy – because they know how to leverage skills of each member of the group. This is what I observe in a very general and superficial way I realize.

* Gen Z – these are the ones not in the workforce yet, but getting there – are astronomically faster than Gen Y because they don’t even do work that does not make sense. However they have difficulty with nuance. They don’t understand the complexity of political and cultural conflict because to them, conflict is just a waste of time. They are extremely idealistic. The idealism makes them work faster.

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Cynthia Hinkle

Dannielle – You had a very interesting post and I enjoyed reading it. There are so many differences between these generations, but like you said they all bring something valuable to the mix. When working together there is a very interesting dynamic between them.

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Avatar Image Laura Rawson

My recent experience with a Gen Y-er is a (now former) coworker of two years. She was very efficient at her job and always did everything quickly and with enthusiasm. The flip side was she lacked a critical eye and frequently made small mistakes (sometimes the same ones… over and over). She’s moved away, but I’m curious if she will remain that way in a few years, after 1-2 more real world jobs. I’m not sure if her lack of detail is generational or just a lack of real world experience.

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Terrence (Terry) Hill

Andy – Technology does not necessarily help to work faster. It helps us to work smarter, allowing more collaboration, communication, and creativity via crowd-sourcing (lots of “Cs”). Technology is a fixed asset for us all, but some are more adept than others in maximizing use of that technology.

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Scott Kearby

Although you can probably find counter-examples for both sides of this narrative … i.e. a boomer who is speedy & tech saavy and a gen y turtle who can’t seem to finish a task … I think the generalization does apply in many cases.

In my experience with younger people, they are eager & energetic & often fearlessly jump right in to a job … sometimes with good results & sometimes not so good if they push ahead without addressing all the details or are satisified to git’r’done, but not git’r’done right.

With more seasoned folks, sometimes they don’t go the extra mile to do it right, they can be content with a job performance that just barely meets standards. Also it can be difficult to get the more senior folks to be excited, enthusiastic, and engaged … they fall back on the been there, done that attitude, and can add drag to the group.

So … if you are in one of these groups (young, old, in-between) … be aware of some of your tendencies & develop some coping mechanisms …. go fast but don’t overlook the details, strive for excellence, try something new, and get in the game!

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Jaime Gracia

What is the real metric here? Is it simply throughput, or quality or both? I think Gen Y does have better efficiencies, especially when it comes to technology and leveraging technology for work, but productivity means working smarter not harder.

Quality beats quantity any day of the week.

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Andrew Krzmarzick

@Cynthia – I’m wondering if this is more true than we realize: “It is just the difference between generations and the ability to link things completely different in our brains. While older generations see things very linear we see things in a matrix making many things make more sense and link together more easily.”

Exhibit A: “Internet Changing Young People’s Thinking, Behavior”

http://www.shrm.org/hrdisciplines/technology/articles/pages/youngminds.aspx

Due to the number of stimuli the next generation has had to process at one time, are their brains neurologically wired differently? I believe this to be the case. Our brains are powerful and adapt to new environments – while that adaptation might be true for someone from any generation, the earlier that adaptation begins in life, the more adept someone will be at operating in that environment.

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Andrew Krzmarzick

@Scott – That article seems like it’s pretty much spot on – more women in leadership, work-life blending, results-based work environments, immediate feedback. Sounds like a great place to work! :-)

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Andrew Krzmarzick

@Jaime – I’d say that metric is quality outcomes…so it’s speed to completion with no / minimal errors. That’s probably true regardless of generation, so we all need to train ourselves to move a little faster and still produce quality work to keep up with the pace of tech and change.

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Cynthia Hinkle

@Andrew – Yes I believe that the younger generations have a brain that is wired differently. Our brains are amazing and are capable of so much. I believe that we can continue to wire our brains to adapt to new environments and technonogy. The article you attached was very interesting. It holds much truth to the generation differences. The generation that is after me is even quicker and more adapt to technology (which is scary). One must continue to expand their knowledge in any way that they can to stay ahead of the game.

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