What Gen Y Workers Want

Flexibility, freedom to use social networks and opportunities for innovation are high on the list.

Generation Y workers are projected to make up the largest segment of the American workforce in the next 10 years. If you’re a federal agency looking to recruit these younger workers, it may help to know that what most Gen Y workers want in a job is work flexibility, the ability to use social networks without strict guidelines and the opportunity to innovate, according to a new study.

The study, “State of the Gen Y Worker,” released Tuesday by PayScale.com and Millennial Branding, found that technology companies are leading the pack when it comes to where Gen Y workers most want to work. The top five companies – which were ranked based on pay, job satisfaction, job stress, meaningfulness of job, work flexibility and green score – were Qualcomm, Google, Medtronic, Intel and Microsoft.

Gen Y workers also ranked government contractors highly, with Lockheed Martin, Booz Allen Hamilton and Northrop Grumman placing in the top 20.

Meanwhile, Gen Y also is very likely to hold a college degree, with just 3.2 percent having completed only high school or lacking any degree, the study found. Most Gen Y workers (63.3 percent) hold a bachelor’s degree, while 12.8 percent hold a Master’s and 1.7 percent hold a Ph.D.

Gen Y workers also have a unique set of job skills that center around online marketing and social media, the study found.

“Millennials are arming themselves with skills and educational training focused in technology and social media, two areas with great growth potential,” said Katie Bardaro, lead economist for PayScale. “However, the shaky economy has forced many of them into a world of underemployment nonetheless.”

Technology jobs like software developer, mechanical engineer and Web developer were the most popular job titles for Gen Y men, while registered nurse, office manager and administrative assistant were the most common job titles for Gen Y women.

Starting salaries for Gen Y workers are comparable to what they would earn in the federal government, with the average salary for all of Gen Y coming in at $39,700. Salaries varied based on age range, with those age 18 to 20 earning an average of just $21,000 per year, while those age 28 to 30 earning an average of $48,000 per year, the study found.

Federal agencies may also be delighted to know that the highest percentage of Gen Y workers is in Washington, where 26 percent of the workforce is Gen Y. Still, Seattle was cited as the best large metro area for Gen Y workers, largely because of its strong wage growth and high median pay for Gen Y workers as well as its strong presence of tech firms, the study found.