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Maybe Gen Y Isn't So Different After All?

Brazen Careerist released a list of the top 50 companies for Gen Y. I was initially excited to see if there was a shake up or perhaps some cool newer companies who were doing some really innovative things with their employment brand, benefits and the like. Take a look at this mindblowing list though. Count me as just a tad disappointed with the top ten:

  1. NBC Universal, Inc.
  2. PepsiCo Inc.
  3. Nestlé USA, Inc.
  4. Google, Inc.
  5. Citigroup, Inc.
  6. Procter & Gamble Co.
  7. Johnson & Johnson
  8. Grant Thornton LLP
  9. AECOM Corporation
  10. Merrill Lynch & Co, Inc.

Wow, these came out of nowhere, right? With the exception of Google, any of Gen Y’s parents could have been employed at any one of these places 20 years ago (and they might have made the top lists back then with the exception of AECOM). Why did this list resemble a lot of other lists of “top companies”? When I asked PayScale (who provided and analyzed data for Brazen Careerist) about the methodology, here’s what Dr. Al Lee, Director of Quantitative Analysis had to say:

We arrived at the methodology in consultation between Penelope Trunk/Brazen Careerist and the compensation/demographics experts at PayScale.

Our goal was to identify large companies that may be attractive to Gen Y job seekers who are college graduates.

Even though there are many excellent small companies, we focused on large companies (ones that employ more than ~2,500 bachelors graduates) because these are companies where many Gen Y workers may eventually find jobs.

The criteria were derived based on Penelope Trunks research and assessments into what Gen Y is looking for

Those criteria were: percentage of Gen Y employees, total cash compensation of those Gen Y’ers, gender balance and green score. When you leave out any company under 2,500 employees, you basically end up compiling a list of places that have the most Gen Y’ers with some very arbitrary quantitative criteria (Penelope Trunk’s spirited defense aside) to try to justify a ranking system.

In analyzing the results, Dr. Lee states, “Not all large companies in a industry are present [which] is telling. That Google and Yahoo! make the list, and Oracle and Microsoft do not, points out significant differences in corporate culture that Gen Y job seekers should be aware of.”

But is it really a corporate culture issue or is it something completely different? Let’s identify some alternative theories:

  • A high percentage of Gen Y’ers could indicate a high turnover environment or an environment that is seeing senior leadership take retirement. They could also be growth with companies hiring Gen Y’ers into a lower talent pool. Either one isn’t necessarily a cultural boon for Gen Y.
  • High compensation of Gen Y’ers could be in response to a crappy work environment. Take these big accounting and analyst firms that pay a good wage but burn their new employees out in a couple of years with 70 hour weeks. The high compensation keeps candidate quality higher out of college while not having to change their culture.
  • Gender balance on a macro scale means little to the equality or flexibility of environment. Looking at women in leadership roles (who are both indicators and often spur equality where it matters) in the company would give a closer estimation at least.
  • I’ve talked with skepticism about green business and I have to believe that this is more of the same. Being green and having a good green score is more marketing than moral at this point. Especially when you are looking at a company like P&G that talks a good game but still spews tons of toxic pollutants into our air every single day.

The most surprising thing to me is that this is such an old school and broken way of evaluating companies and their value to their potential employees. What I fear and speculate happened is that Brazen Careerist asked PayScale what criteria they have measured in the past and limited themselves to that criteria for any internal analysis. If one were to think about the best data to use to evaluate the best fit for Gen Y, would they come up with these four? I just have a hard time believing that.

In short, what does this list of companies mean for Gen Y’ers? Either we in Gen Y are closer to having the same wants as every other generation (I’ve found these companies on other top lists across the entire workforce) or it is completely wrong and doesn’t mean anything. Neither one of these outcomes has to be what Brazen Careerist wanted.

Note: I am a member of Brazen Careerist and have been featured on PayScale’s blog.

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