How important is confidence and self esteem to today’s young adults?  A 2010 study titled “Sweets, Sex, or Self-Esteem?” set out to answer that question.  Much to the surprise of researchers at the University of Michigan, the 300 students they surveyed favored a boost to self-esteem (praise, compliments, high grades) over other pleasurable activities (junk foods, alcohol, sex, and money).The study found that:

  • Both men and women valued self-esteem more than sex, food or alcohol.
  • Men valued self-esteem more than money and time with friends.
  • Participants ‘liked’ all of the pleasant rewards more than they ‘wanted’ them, except in the case of self-esteem, underscoring a pressing need for confidence boosters.

What do GenY’ers bring to the workplace?

While GenY’ers have been maligned as the “me” generation, they nonetheless represent an emerging workforce of more than 75 million and employers would be wise to understand their self-esteem needs, celebrate their strengths, and find strategic ways to engage them constructively on the job.The myths and misconceptions notwithstanding, recent data from the Pew Research Center indicates that Millennials are in fact confident, hard working, tech savvy, and flexible. And yet, according to an American Psychological Association study, only 52% of the current workforce feels appreciated on the job. This gap highlights an opportunity for managers to connect with their GenY employees by understanding their need for recognition.

Can Managers Leverage self-esteem goals  to drive performance?

Recent research  suggests that they can:

  • Today’s Grads overwhelmingly rely on social media to communicate.
  • They crave immediate and consistent feedback.
  • Opportunities for career advancement are even more important than salary.
  • Years-of-service rewards and plaques have very little impact.

Companies who embrace the power of feedback, meaningful rewards, and real-time communication — and acknowledge the impact of these tools on self-esteem and productivity — will see enormous increases in performance and engagement from their GenY employees.

Ruth Zive


Ruth Zive is a corporate freelance writer from Toronto, Canada, with expertise in the technology and retail sectors. Specializing in copywriting, blogging, product marketing, CSR strategy, branding and more, Ruth works directly with each of her Focus Minded Communication clients and oversees all aspects of every project. Ruth loves Ashtanga yoga, her large family, her Havanese pup and her yummy collection of designer handbags (not necessarily in that order).