Human ResourcesSmall Biz

Recruit, Train and Retain Gen Y

Remember a time when running an ad in the Help Wanted section of your local paper resulted in well-presented, appropriately skilled hungry job applicants? Remember a time when people of all levels of education retired in their 60’s after 30+ years of working for the same company? Remember a time when an annual raise, two weeks of vacation and maybe an end of year bonus were all your employees expected? Buckle up! Generation Y has arrived.

Gen Y: different from previous generations in many respects, from their upbringing to their politics. They’re ambitious, demanding and they question everything. If there isn’t a good reason for that long commute or late night, don’t expect them to do it. When it comes to loyalty, the companies they work for are last on the list – behind their families, their friends, their communities, their co-workers and of course themselves. But, there are a whole lot of them.

Gen Y (also known as Millennials) have filled the 22-35 year old age group increasing the number of younger workers by 19% at a time when workers aged 36-45 will decrease by 6%. Larger then the Baby Boomer generation and more than three times the size of Gen X, diversity, independence, empowerment, and technology are no longer optional in the workplace.

Millennials are a product of their environment. Growing up the first “child-centered” generation, they have been raised to believe that they can do and have anything. By far the most diverse demographic group (1 out of 3 is a minority) Gen Y expects the companies they work for to reflect that. Growing up along with ever-present technology, they are using the Internet and cell phones as their primary means of communication. Unlike past generations, the wealth of information available in seconds from the internet and the multitude of choices at their fingertips has given Gen Y members the notion that if they do not get what they want from one source, they can immediately go to another. Understanding and being sensitive to the needs of these workers will be the key factor in recruiting and retaining them.

Companies must have an online presence as well as being technologically colorful, upbeat and modern to distinguish themselves from the storm. That is about where technology in the hiring process should end. Gen Y is quick to recognize when a potential employer uses technology in lieu of relationship building therefore, adding a personal touch is a critical part of any smart company’s recruitment strategy.

The best person to connect with Generation Y is Generation Y. Questions and concerns are put at ease by an already devoted employee of the same generation. This same staff person can serve as the go-to-person for your new employee throughout their employment. Being raised in the age of the “active parent”, Millennials are stretching the transition to adulthood well into their 20’s. Consequently, parents are now heavily involved in the decision about a potential employer.

Work-life balance isn’t just a buzz word with this generation. Income and opportunity for advancement aren’t the only benefits they are looking for. Millennials care about such benefits as flexible work schedules, casual dress environment, recognition, retirement plans, telecommuting options and the ability to go part-time or leave the workforce for a while when children are in the picture. After events like 9/11, there is a realization that life is short and a high value is placed on self-fulfillment. Gen Y’ers want to take a job because they want to work there, not because they have to. Making a difference in the world, or the company, is what these new workers are looking for.

So if getting Gen Y’ers to join a company is a challenge, getting them to stay is even harder. The key is the same one their parents have used their whole lives – loving, encouraging and rewarding them.

  1. Encourage their values: Any way to show appreciation for their individuality and let them be expressive will keep them around. Allow them to have input into the decision-making process. They want to be heard.
  2. Train them: This is the most education-oriented generation in history. If you want a job well done, tell them how to do it. Complete training and availability of answers is the key. Help them to develop skills faster so that they can take on larger opportunities.
  3. Mentor them: They want to add to your company, not own it. Do not be afraid to give feedback, positive or negative. Make their work valid: Don’t just give orders, give the reasoning behind them. If you want them to do something, tell them why, in a way that lets them know the importance of the task to the company.
  4. Show them how their work will contribute to the bottom line: They need to know they are making an impact.
  5. Provide full disclosure: They value fairness and ethical behavior, while also being skeptical. If they feel you are not truthful, they will not be satisfied.
  6. Create customized career paths: This will create a sense of control that Gen Y desires and will provide them with a realistic account of their progress and their future with the employer.
  7. Provide access to technology: Having the newest and the best technology at their fingertips will attract and retain Generation Y employees.
  8. Mark milestones in a big way. Birthdays etc.
  9. This generation is loyal to individuals not to the organization. Develop relationships with your staff. If you want them to care about your company, show them that you care about them.

We must utilize 100% of this motivated workforce – not just their backs and minds, but their innovation, enthusiasm, energy and fresh perspective.