Attracting the “Y” Generation

by Dorene Burkhalter
Paramount Potentials

Collaboration and creativity are key to attracting and retaining the workforce of the future.

With millennials, also known as Generation Y, currently at 40 million in the workforce and estimated to reach 75 percent of the total workforce by 2025, CEOs, managers and HR leaders need to join forces to align their strategic plans for attracting and retaining the labor force of the future. It’s not enough for area businesses to strive to be an employer of choice. Though necessary, the possession of “employer of choice” qualities in a community in which millennials are making a grand exodus will have minimal benefits for recruiting.

Who Is Gen Y and What Do They Want?
Cynthia Cohen of Strategic Mindshare describes this generation as optimistic, multicultural, paradoxical, entrepreneurial, experiential and well-informed. They are digital natives who don’t remember life without technology or the Internet. They crave instant and transparent communication (and feedback), collaboration and mentorship. Believers in “going green,” they are conscious of their imprint on the environment.

Seeking to avoid the pitfalls of their workaholic parents, millennials strive for flexibility in their work arrangements and focus on the pursuit of personal interests outside of normal working hours. They don’t just do “9 to 5.” Always open to new challenges and scenery, 83 percent of millennials are willing to relocate for the right position, according to the 2012 Candidate Behavior Study from CareerBuilder and Inavero.

Changing jobs every three years or so, millennials are “always” on a job search mentally, with 79 percent open to a job opportunity at any given time. Just 23 percent are satisfied in their current jobs, so they spend, on average, 28 weeks consulting up to 15 resources to decide their next career move. Phew! Taking ownership in their career plan is an understatement.

Millennials are also unimpressed by hierarchies—rank, seniority, salary, etc. That doesn’t mean they don’t respect their bosses or the leaders of their organization; they simply expect each member to have equal status during discussions, and for learning to be a two-way street between the younger and older generations.

Obviously, good pay is also important to Gen Y. In 2012, average student loan debt grew close to $30,000, with some colleges reporting an average as high as $55,000. And to think… a baby boomer’s biggest worry upon graduation and getting a job was making the payment on a $3,500 auto loan.

Brenda Goodman of The New York Times wrote a cover story last November entitled “Cities Compete in Hipness Battle to Attract Young.” She stated that cities are battling over college-educated, 25-to-34-year-olds—described as “the young and the restless”—because after age 35, statistics show that people are less likely to relocate. And if they don’t attract them now, these cities will be hurting in a decade.

Demographers say that members of this educated age group are more likely to choose a location before finding a job. They like downtown living, public transportation and plenty of entertainment options. They also view diversity and tolerance as marks of sophistication. And, those cities that already have a significant share of “the young and restless” are in the best position to attract more. In a study by payscale.com, Chicago ranks 11th and St. Louis 13th for cities where millennials are moving to meet people their own age, max out their pay and avoid time-wasting commutes. Millennials also love working for technology companies, as Seattle ranked first on the list.

How Can We Retain the “Young and the Restless?”
So, what’s it going to take to attract and retain millennials in our smaller communities and workplaces? The simple answer: We need to mimic big cities. The more complex answer: City, business and HR leaders need to collaborate and get creative. For example, Lansing, Michigan has new Entertainment Express trolleys as part of that state’s “Cool Cities” initiative, while in Memphis, a new bioscience research park is under construction just blocks from Beale Street. These findings underscore the need for employers to clearly define their employer brand, which clarifies the culture of a company and helps candidates determine whether they want to join an organization, and thus, its community. And this brand must “walk the talk.” Thanks to glassdoor.com, candidates can verify the validity of an employer’s image. Some brand attributes that will attract and retain millennials include:

  • A true work/life balance
  • Competitive salary
  • Location
  • Flexible schedule and the option to work remotely
  • Reputation for making a difference through their work
  • Career ladder and continuing education
  • Cutting-edge technology (That’s a given!).

Take it from the greats by looking at the “100 Best Companies to Work For” list in this January’s edition of Fortune magazine. This year, the key to assist readers in finding their employer of choice included four attributes, or company perks: full-time voluntary turnover of less than five percent annually, average compensation for full-time employees in the top quartile, offers domestic partner benefits for same-sex couples, and offers an on-site fitness center.

Since companies that are keeping up with technology likely possess an integrated human resource management system, recruiters should be able to get out from behind their desks to meet the number one expectation of applicants—having a relationship with the recruiter prior to searching out the employment brand. The old adage, “It’s not what you know, but who you know that matters,” is still very much alive and well! Employers need to begin building relationships with candidates well before they walk through their doors.

Today’s applicants want to be interactive with recruiters, managers and organizational leaders. They expect to see these representatives on high school and college campuses speaking to classrooms, at job fairs, hosting socials and having ongoing relationships with teachers and professors. Millennials are very vocal about their experiences, so they need to interact with you via social media too—blogs, LinkedIn, Google+, etc. They also expect to go to your company’s website, click on your “career” page and take job-fit and skill-based assessments, in addition to playing around with career pathing tools.

Without a doubt, the recruiter mindset must change to accommodate millennial demands. Instead of being quick to write off applicants who aren’t local, broaden your search outside of your immediate area, since millennials are so willing to relocate. Finally, be more forgiving of job-hopping, and during the exit interview, make sure you encourage the employee to boomerang back to the company when another opportunity comes along. iBi

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