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Does Gen Y Complete Work Faster Than Everyone Else?

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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Comment by Cynthia Hinkle on March 26, 2013 at 10:48am

@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.

Comment by Andrew Krzmarzick on March 26, 2013 at 8:22am

@Jaime - I'd say that metric is quality 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.

Comment by Andrew Krzmarzick on March 26, 2013 at 8:20am

@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! :-)

Comment by Andrew Krzmarzick on March 26, 2013 at 8:17am

@Dannielle - Great summation of the differences between the generations and their typical MO. Thanks!

Comment by Andrew Krzmarzick on March 26, 2013 at 8:16am

@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"

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.

Comment by Jaime Gracia on March 25, 2013 at 12:13pm

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. 

Comment by Scott Kearby on March 25, 2013 at 11:49am

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!

Comment by Scott McNaughton on March 25, 2013 at 11:39am

For a great reading about Generation Y that relates to this post check out the Globe and Mail's insight look into 6 ways Generation Y will change the workplace.

Comment by Terrence (Terry) Hill on March 25, 2013 at 11:34am
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.
Comment by Laura Rawson on March 25, 2013 at 10:58am

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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