Best Practices

Why You Should WANT Gen Y Workers in your Dealership

Why would you WANT to hire a Gen Y’er?

Image of Generation Y

Coddled. Entitled. The “what’s-in-it-for-me?” generation. Lately the blogosphere is erupting with articles on how to attract Gen Y hires to the automotive industry. Based on the unflattering stereotype surrounding my generation, I think a better question is “Why would you WANT to hire a Gen Y’er?

We sound awful. Yet everything they say is true. On that note, here’s why you should want to recruit my spoiled, coddled, co-dependent generation to work in your store.

Because of course, we’re not. Well, we are. But we’re not. Here’s how it works.

You say: “We’re entitled.”
I say: “We’re engaged.”

Here’s an interesting fact about my generation that you won’t read in any study: We don’t believe in boredom. It’s true. We don’t. For my generation, the concept of boredom has gone the way of the Bubonic plague and the butter churn: a bizarre and wholly avoidable concept easily cured by even the smallest dollop of modern ingenuity. The good news? This boredom-intolerance extends to boredom in the workplace. This anti-boredom attitude alone is a marked shift  that makes Gen Y’ers infinitely desirable hires.

While previous generations believe in “putting in your time” and “paying your dues,” Gen Y believes in Google’s 20% time and architecting our own rise to the top, as fast as our personal initiative can carry us. Work for our previous generation was a treadmill. For us, it’s a trampoline: buoyant, thrilling, meteoric, and scary. You see, we’ll do anything to avoid workplace boredom-including work as hard as we possibly can.

Here’s the best-kept secret of my generation: Gen Y’ers have a deep, unquenchable thirst for challenging work.

According to a study by The London School of Business, “When we talked about careers, young professionals were clear that the most important aspect to them is a challenge. They want to have a career where they are challenged and can grow with the challenge. Rather than being bored, they prefer jobs which stretch them and if they are no longer challenged, they would consider moving on.”

Think about it. If the quintessential workplace flick of the 90’s was Office Space, the classic career film for Millennials is The Social Network. Telling, isn’t it? Gen X had angst; we have Angry Birds. We expect workplace life to be one big whirling dervish of colorful activity, and we bring the killer combination of technology and tenacity (yes, the tenacity that comes from helicopter parents that told us we were amazing every day) to make it happen.

So yes, my generation feels entitled to fun, innovation, opportunity and excitement in the workplace. But here’s the flipside: we create fun, innovation, opportunity and excitement in the workplace.

We’re products of our zeitgeist. Previous generations see boredom as inevitable, we see it as avoidable. Give a Baby Boomer 30 minutes and they’ll stare at the wall. Give a Gen Yer 30 minutes and we’re dreaming up The Next Big Idea, calling an impromptu meeting, commandeering a white board, sailing around on a wheelie chair, and putting our plan into action.

If you’ve hired a Gen Yer who can’t figure out filing, don’t demote them to coffee-making. Promote them to Special Projects and challenge them to come up with the next game-changing marketing campaign for your dealership. Don’t be surprised when we come up with a transformative idea for your business-and gets every Baby Boomer in the room on board while they’re at it.

So tell me: dealers who have hired Gen Yers, have you found my theory to be true?

Gen Yers working in dealerships: have you implemented any creative ideas that have taken off?

Sound off in the comments below!

Jade Makana is the Senior Social Media Analyst at ADP Digital Marketing. Jade specializes in bringing corporate brands to life through emerging media....
  • Z
    Zach Bello
  • July 15, 2011
This is great. As a fellow Generation Y'er i've been fortunate enough to be hired on board at Lebanon Ford ( as the Marketing and Communications Manager. Alongside a fellow Generation Y'er, we have been given full reigns to be as creative as we want when it comes to promoting the dealership. The two of us act as a sort of in house marketing agency for our store. Some things that we have done:

-Created a 14 foot whiteboard wall for our drawing and planning pleasure
-Have another wall in our office named the "Inspiration Wall" where we tape articles and pictures that may inspire us in the future.
-We've written and shot a total of 3 commercials for the dealership.
-Launched a marketing campaign off one of them, all centered around Zombies. (See it here:

We are very lucky to have a dealership that is so willing to allow us to really run free and be as creative as possible.
Jade - What a great article on how you define the Gen Y'er! Since they view jobs within the auto industry a lot different, providing them the opportunity within there as you mentioned "Special Projects" can really benefit the dealer themselves.  Having them engage that crowd can be simply overlooked as dealers are looking to sell sell sell but creating those special projects to the Gen Y'er can help pull in that crowd specifically to that dealership.  Again great post and I look forward to seeing more! 
What is the range for Gen Y?? I think i missed it by a year, I'm a 1981 baby. 
  • Anonymous
  • July 17, 2011
 Love this! Jade, I didn't give you a proper shout-out but you were the inspiration for this piece from when I saw you in Dallas
Fabulous read Jade... You're dead on with the demotion/ promotion scheme. This is exactly where most of us Boomers FAIL! We fail to recognize their potential and creativity because it's disguised with technology driven ideas and "engagement".  
Excellent article Jade!  One thing that I see from the outside (as a car lover/blogger but one not employed in the industry) is failure by dealers to engage with brand fanatics.  Engagement does not mean putting up an unmonitored facebook page.  It means actively courting the most die-hard fans to speak your praises.  Gen Y is unique suited for this task.   Catering to your vocal fans can easily have the same impact as spending two or three times as much in marketing dollars.
  • J
  • July 18, 2011
Looks like I'll be the 1st dissenter here :) 
"Here’s the best-kept secret of my generation: Gen Y’ers have a deep, unquenchable thirst for challenging work."
I agree with this, but the problem is, in my experience, that the Y'ers define for themselves what they do and don't find interesting.  So as long as the work or project or whatever is interesting to them, then yes, gung-ho, go get 'em, great job!
But let's be realistic.  Not too many 20-somethings are going to be hired into any business as a "manager," other than in Title-Only.  There's a certain amount of "grunt work" that has to get done.  Matter-of-factly, most times, the position is created to free-up the actual manager or director from the tediousness of such work.   Want to make a Gen-Y'er get bored?  Ask them to build a spreadsheet or comb through data.
"We’re products of our zeitgeist. Previous generations see boredom as inevitable, we see it as avoidable. Give a Baby Boomer 30 minutes and they’ll stare at the wall. Give a Gen Yer 30 minutes and we’re dreaming up The Next Big Idea, calling an impromptu meeting, commandeering a white board, sailing around on a wheelie chair, and putting our plan into action."
I 1000% agree with this too -- it actually confirms my observations: this new breed has their heads in the clouds!  Please forget the Next Big Idea and skip the White Board:  you need to prove to your boss you are capable of getting needed, tedious work completed without supervision.  And AFTER you have proven yourself as a reliable, go-to person, and hopefulluy LEARNED a few things about the business along the way, you have EARNED the right to perhaps work on some Special Projects.
Gimmie a few bright Y'ers who are willing to start in the trenches and dig some ditches, and you'll find them in nice houses and driving nice cars in 7-10 years.  But I guess theres' a reason why sooo many are living back at home with Mom and Dad right now...  Present company excluded, of course! :)
JQ - I tend to agree with you on the fact that not too many 20-somethings are going to be hired into a dealership as a manager. However, we are in the time of instant gratification. An age where these Y'ers never saw a CD-rom...and their first phone was likely an early version smart phone. We are in a time of technology driven individuals. I think some people assume that everyone should have to "put their time in" and "dig some ditches" before they can go anywhere. While I agree that experience is a necessary step, I think 7-10 years is a little steep. We are a generation of tackling challenges and wanting more. Try to keep me in a position for 7-10 years digging ditches and you'll find that I started looking for another challenge 2 years in. 

In an age of snapshot stats and automated systems is it absolutely necessary to continue hiring talented individuals to perform tedious tasks just to prove their worth? Just an opinion. 

Great article, Jade! 
  • J
  • July 18, 2011
Exactly... thanks Will!

Ol' Uncle Joe here.  Here comes a counter to your "Rainbows and Unicorns" view of Gen Y.

Where did you get your inventory of the personal assets needed to "rise to the top"?

Is  "A lack of boredom" a hallmark of greatness? Really?  I'll ask you this,  where did Gen Y's "lack of boredom" come from? Is it internal or external?
It's external to Gen Y.  Take away the iPhone and Social Media platforms and what do you have? 


Where in your review is the DRIVE, the PASSION, the DISCIPLINE and FIRE IN THE BELLY to risk it all?  What of the commitment
required to LEAVE YOUR SOCIAL LIFE BEHIND in the pursuit to excel?

Gen Y, "leave their social life behind"?  ahhh... I don't think so.

Speaking of risk taking, why is it that so many Gen Y in their mid 20's are still living with mommy and daddy? I'm 100% ok with that -IF- this time is used smartly. How many of them are using this LOW OVERHEAD time with mom and dad to build a business, or, are working 2 jobs to build cash to get a strong start in life?

Can you name one?  I can't.  Sure there are exceptions, but just like in Generations past, only a few outliers are out there blazing new paths. 

In my travels, Gen Y's are self absorbed, running from boredom by living in a 2D world.  They live by staring into hand held screens passing around "he said... she said" drivel to their peers and missing the sweet sounds and opportunities of the 3D world swirling around them.

/grumpy ol man rant hahaha
  • J
  • July 19, 2011
Joe -- you are my hero!  haha..LOL.  For years, when I'm training, I've spoken about our "Speak into the Clown's Face Culture" when it comes to ILM responses -- our need to give 'em what they want when they want it.  And I make them squirm through the following scenario: just sit there and pretend you are at the drive-up window and have to wait for 5 minutes -- just 5 lousy minutes!  It seems like the world has stopped and time itself has imploded if your burger and fries are not waiting for you by the time you drive-up...

I've never considered the same parallel to Gen Y:  Pull-up to the clown's face:  "I'll take a management position with a 6-figure salary, 6 weeks vacation and a side of paid health insurance, please -- and oh, hold the tedium!

Fit's doesn't it?  haha...    And if it's not ready by the time they pull-up to the window?  Well, like you said, there's always Mom & Dad...
Generation Y is typically referred to as anyone born between 1981 and 1993...according to the Gen Y library (Wikipedia). 

The oldest of that age group is just turning 30.  The youngest; just starting adulthood.  I think that generation is still too young to be judged. 

If we want to talk about some extreme generational divides then we should look at the younger side of Gen Y:  the ones who are 18 to 22 years old today.....

What's a library?
You actually listened to AM radio?  Ha ha ha.
Bill Gates was a CEO?
Why would you use a blackberry?
What are jorts?
There is a thing called playing outside?  I thought that was XBOX Live.
How do you ride a bicycle? 
Hell, every new generation thinks they're more special than those before them.  Look at my older generation, We were all about "rainbows and unicorns". It was our mission to conquer the oppressive war mongering prior generation.  We fought with Peace, Love and happyness.  Look what my "flower power" generation built...

The most powerful army on the planet,
The most dysfunctional public school system ever.
Spineless parents that avoid teaching (aka tough love)
Bigger, Better, Faster at all costs.
Big Govt to protect us all
Gigantic Energy consumption p/capita
2 Americas (inner city and everywhere else)
Poll driven journalism (tail wagging the dog)
Fox News (ack!)
MSNBC News (ack!)

hahaha, it ain't all that bad, we did bring you Al Gore and Jorts!  ;-)
  • J
  • July 19, 2011
Jorts are making a comeback!  You'll see Bieber in a pair and they'll be all the rage!
  • J
  • July 19, 2011
Hi everyone-Jade here. Just back from vacation and delighted to see such a spirited discussion going on here.
It is said the Gen Y'ers respond to "humor, irony, and unvarnished
truth" and I think you all have delivered on all counts;) I am reading
the comments with keen interest and promise to address many of your
points in upcoming Gen Y posts. I don't want to give away spoilers so
I'll just say- stay tuned for robots, geckos and technological poets coming soon:)

  • B
  • July 19, 2011
Jade - I think this is right on point. I'm a 21 year old just introduced to the car industry (the sales side anyway) about 4 months ago. I was previously a web developer for a large manufacturer and I found myself unchallenged. (I became a web guy as a result of productive boredom.) So here I am 4 months as Internet Sales Manager (though I don't manage anyone) and I think I've adapted and accomplished a good bit in my short time here (at least I think I have)... I've hand written a web-based CRM/Lead Management tool custom tailored to our needs that's integrated with text messaging for sales texts, service reminders, happy b-day texts, text contests etc, ... I set up a text message lead system where we have stickers on all of our cars so that you can text the stock number to our short-code sms and it replies with info, pricing, rebates etc about the car (and it generates a lead on my Lead management tool from this)(mostly for after hours ups)... I've launched marketing campaigns and worked on our SEO and blog that have resulted in more than doubling our calls and leads (and tripled our internet sales/month) ... I've also read a few books to catch me up to speed on the car industry in respect to market sensitive pricing.. I'm now responsible for pricing our cars on vAuto and using all of our sources to create buy lists and find cars on online auctions... I've just recently learned to quit volunteering myself for tasks I think I can improve us as a dealership on, as most people at the dealership (not gen-y) have no problem giving up their tasks and spending their extra free time staring at the wall... My work load is growing and most nights i work from home until 10 or 11 on dealership related work...
Now with all that said, as you referred to us as the "whats-in-it-for-me? Generation", I know what's in it for me. And being on a commission based pay-plan, by looking out for me, I'm also helping the dealership. Our owner always tells me he doesn't mind giving me my share of the pie as it grows. His piece will always be bigger than mine, but mine is going to be as big as i can make it. Win-win.
  • L
    Larry Lea
  • July 20, 2011
I need to party with Joe

Good stuff!  If your near Syracuse NY, we should talk.
  • J
  • July 20, 2011
Bryce-i love that phrase "productive boredom." Sounds like you are my walking case study:)
  • S
    Stan Sher
  • July 21, 2011
Very insightful...I guess I am a Gen Y worker. My characteristics are not the same. I'm not spoiled and I'm a very hard worker. Some sayni was born 10 years too late with how my mind thinks and music taste lol. Ut have many of the characteristics of a Gen y employeentoo because I am engaged.
  • J
  • July 25, 2011
One last comment -- wondering how many Y'ers would agree or disagree.  Worked with a young gal (and I adored her, really still do).  I remember her telling me about how she had been out the night before, but forgot her smart phone in her hotel room, and was lost without it -- didn't know what to do at the bar.  I thought -- wait a second -- you're at a bar!!  But then I think of that picture above...   And now I'm thinking about my old intern, who's now on the floor, just started.  Love the kid -- bright, energetic, warm -- and very sociable on Facebook.  But he has a hard time looking people in the eye, and forget about a firm handshake. 

Where are the people skills for this generation?  And how will the very necessary interpersonal and people skills get developed when sooo much of their "social" interaction really isn't "social" at all?

One thing is not arguable: through all the changes and tech this and internet that, this is and remains a "People" business.  How will Y cope?
Hmmm JQ... I see a trend?

I wrote:
"...In my travels, Gen Y's are self absorbed, running from boredom by living
in a 2D world.  They live by staring into hand held screens passing
around "he said... she said" drivel to their peers and missing the sweet
sounds and opportunities of the 3D world swirling around them."

  • B
  • July 25, 2011
Note: We do have 3D phones now :P
  • J
    Jeff Kershner
  • July 25, 2011
Nice response Bryce! I like it.
Jeff Kershner
Founder | DealerRefresh

[email protected]
240 217 1740
hahahahaha...  Gotta love Bryce!
  • J
  • July 26, 2011

 Some interesting points here, especially in regards to the
topic of people skills. As to whether Gen Y possesses people skills, I think it
depends on how narrowly you define the term. Does my generation value people
skills? More than any other generation in history. Social media elevates relationships,
connection and communication from a workplace incidental to an almost sacred
status. But, do we define people skills as a pumping handshake and aggressive
eye contact? Not really. Many of us see these as phony “salesman” mannerisms
designed to distract. Instead, we focus our relationship-building efforts on
mastering a new monster: online etiquette. Social media has a downright
high-schoolish set of norms associated with it: cadence, terminology,
etiquette. The do’s and don’ts of online conversations are unforgiving and ever-changing,
yet my generation deftly absorbs and evolves to adopt them all: first, fastest,
and most fluidly. Because social media offers such critical mass, is on the
public record, and reaches an almost limitless audience, there’s a case to be
made that Gen Y’s got people skills on steroids. Obviously in-person skills are
still critical and when used correctly, eye contact, articulate speech, good
posture etc are key professional tools. And yes, in some cases, my generation could
use a refresher course. But, I don’t think the fact that we spend a lot of time
online makes us antisocial hermits-quite the opposite. Judge us not by the
heartiness of our handshake but by the vastness of our contact network, haha.

  • J
  • July 26, 2011
Amen, Joe!

I wonder if Y knows they are being (gently) teased here?

Jade's last post beautifully illustrates your point.  They think that cyber-social is "real," and that they are on some sort of stage where all the world is watching and all the world "cares." 

To even suggest that eye contact and a firm handshake are "phony salesperson mannerisms" says it best!  I don't think I could ever say anything that makes our point better than that.  Wow.  I didn't realize it was that bad. 
  • F
    Fh Kibbles
  • August 23, 2011
As someone who is on the cusp of Gen X and Y, I see a bit of both sides here. I work in an office full of Gen Y'ers around 23/24, who have yet to develop a sense of real accountability and lack experience to back up the talk. While I commend the enthusiasm and creativity my co-workers have, it cannot substitute for real world experience in many instances and it's us "old timers" who are barely pushing 30 who have come in to save the day on a number of occasions.

I know they think they're super guru ninja rockstars just out of college because they were great students and their parents told them so, but the entitlement for promotion is sometimes just too much for me. I've heard complaints time and time again about why they haven't been promoted yet...and they've been in the job two months...and it's their first job ever out of college...and they haven't been able to prove success. But their mom, dad, parents, and teachers told them that they will rise quickly in the world because of their awesomeness! I'm not picking on Gen Y, but it's one of the thing that needs to be taken into account when hiring them. If they don't get that promotion or gratification fast enough (or that challenge to substitute) they are going to move on to someone else they think will rise them through the ranks faster.

There is no doubt that certain brands would benefit hugely from Gen Y in the dealership...MINI, Subaru, Scion, and other "young" brands that have a cool factor that the 50 something GM is just not going to be able to recreate. If your dealership culture can incorporate this Gen Y attitude into your dealership I think you'll be more successful in the long run. If you do business as usual then you might find more headaches from both sides as frustration mounts.
  • D
  • July 3, 2012
Ouch, seems like a lot of hate against the Gen Y'ers on this blog and some very ignorant comments.
Jade is absolutely right.  I work at a dealership and run circles around these guys. I answer phones, I walk the lot, I wait on people in the front, I will do it all to not be bored with my day.
Think we can't carry a conversation or look someone in the eye? I have seen the world through the internet, I know what Shaquille O'neal is doing right now, I just saw a Bald Eagle swoop down and steal a fisherman's fish off his reel, I have every piece of information at my fingertips, I see news you can't even read in your daily newspaper because it only comes 2x a week. Tell me I can't strike up a conversation to anyone about anything and I will prove you wrong. Generation Y can relate to anyone and talk about anything that might strike up a solid conversation and build trust with a customer.
I would like to see a graph on the amount of vehicles purchased per year based on age.  I would have to imagine ages 30-70 take up the majority of these sales, especially the later half of that range who have money saved, great credit, pension plus social security and would hate to be in a vehicle without warranty. In my experience, it is so much easier to build trust with these people and get them to like you. With all of the technology on cars now and in the near future, who better to explain the technology? Tell me how many 40 year olds in dealerships can type 65 words a minute?  Tell me how many 40 year olds are comfortable receiving and sending texts back to customers...throughout the day, on weekends, at night because we are ALWAYS available, 24/7?Tell me how many 40 year olds can navigate through different systems and webpages as fast as Gen Y? We can run circles around these sales people who have been doing the same thing for 20 years. We bring fun and excitement to dealerships that 99% of people are too afraid to come into because of the old "car sales" techniques. 
On top of these reasons, and so many more, think about the type of competition a 23,24,25 year old would bring to the table. Do you think the salespeople who are use to sitting at their desk, waiting for repeats/referrals, and once in a while getting a fresh up would like to see someone new to the business, younger, faster, fresher, more qualified (assuming they graduated college) running circles around them?
And if you think I don't know what I am talking about... I am 24, graduated college in finance, make more money than 90% of the customers I sit down with in new car sales, work for one of the largest, most innovative dealerships in the nation, and will climb the ladder of success faster than any of the employees working at the dealership. The car business is a gold mine for kids my age. Dealerships must begin to recruit this generation if they plan on staying competitive in the future. We have totally new ideas from the usual norm, can explain every bit of technology simply, can work 2x faster and harder and create ways to make things easier, and can help transform dealerships to the fastest growing type of car sales... the internet. Car dealerships haven't even seen what will happen with online sales and any type of social media, they have only had a small taste in the last 4 years.