Take care of us, Generation Y says

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While each generation may believe there is a cavernous gap between it and previous ones, 20-somethings - Generation Y - are a different breed from their parents and grandparents according to a new survey conducted by recruitment firm Robert Half Finance and Accounting.

They not only expect companies to develop them professionally and pay them handsomely, but flexible working hours must also be part and parcel of the package.

The study, which canvassed 1,800 finance and human resource professionals across 11 European countries, shows that 84% are motivated by other factors than their predecessors in Europe's workforce, which includes veterans from World War II, baby boomers and Generation X, who are now in their 30s. The only exception is Italy, which reported no difference between the generations.

The survey revealed that career development prospects topped Generation Y's priority list when selecting or staying with employers. About 50% said they would leave a company if they felt there was no upward mobility while 39% would not stick around if the pay and bonuses were poor.

Work/life balance, which includes flexible working hours, the ability to take extra holiday and time off when a child was ill, was also important.

According to Neil Owen, a London-based recruitment consultant for Robert Half, companies, the financial services industry is meeting the challenge by offering a variety of options including flexible benefit packages where employees can effectively pick and mix the type of benefits they would like up to a certain level. "A company will have a pool of benefits on offer and an employee may opt, for example, for an extra holiday instead of a life insurance policy," he says.

Studies in Australia and the US show similar results. They also highlight that these views are in sharp contrast to the baby boomers and veterans who were typically happy to have a job, work long hours without questioning and saw the bonus as just that - an additional perk.

Owen says that employees are in a better position today to negotiate their terms and conditions. "At the moment, employees have more options and can afford to be more selective because the economy is strong. Employers are willing to listen and offer more flexible packages and career development opportunities because they want to attract the best and the brightest."

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