In one sense the media is not something new just to Generation Y. When I was their age I had TV, radio, and music to watch and listen to along with magazines and books to read. Today they have that and more.
The first difference is portability. I recall as a teenager getting my own transistor radio and being able to listen to my music in my own bedroom, away from the rest of the family. Soon after followed the use of a personal cassette player and then my own stereo. Apart from television, my access to the media had moved out of the family living room and into my bedroom and my exposure to it had increased. Yet now that’s nothing! Now I view media anywhere through the screen of my portable tablet: newspapers, magazines, books, TV, radio, and my music collection are all in one place, not to mention video games and computer puzzles. A result of this portability is isolation. With the aid of headphones and my own screen I can entertain myself quite happily alone.
The second noticeable difference is saturation. With multiple TV channels to view, thousands of songs in their pockets, a host of games to play on their laptops, and almost unlimited print material to download in seconds, Generation Y have multiple choices to at all times watch, read or listen to whatever they want.
The third difference is the level of visual stimulation they experience. A small black and white TV has been replaced by a crisp, bright flat screen TV, while movies are in 3D with surround sound and the images and content on both are more violent and provocative than anything available when I was their age.
So how does this affect Generation Y in the workforce? Firstly they have an expectation that work, like the rest of their lives should be entertaining and even fun—and not just the work itself, the people too.
Secondly is the tendency to become bored very easily. Their brains are used to constant stimulation to the point that sitting in an office alone for any length of time and doing work with no external stimulation is just too hard for many.
Thirdly, and more positively, is an ability to multitask or, more accurately, to switch quickly between tasks and regain concentration. You may wonder how they can remain focussed with music playing, texts coming in and facebook feeds updating, and while we might debate the extent to which they actually can, they are certainly able to manage this more efficiently than an older worker and such stimuli can keep them at their task for longer without boredom setting in.