As we all know, Baby Boomers – who fill as many job positions as Generation X and Y combined – have started to reach retirement age. This will create a large hole in the employment market that the new employees of Gen Y will barely be able to fill. It’s going to be an employee’s market in terms of jobs, and employers will have to do all they can to attract and retain new employees.
Unfortunately for employers, people from Gen Y aren’t easy to attract or retain – less than 5 years is considered “long-term” employment to a Generation Y, who are content to shop around for the best employer to work for. Those companies that strive to attract Gen Y and retain them in the long term will succeed, but those that ignore their new employees are going to find lots of their positions vacant in the near future.
So what makes Gen Y tick? While the Baby Boomers were driven by a desire to rebuild after the devastation of World War 2, and Gen X strove to throw off the ideals of their parents and do things “my way”, Gen Y grew up in a time of safety and security. The cold war had ended, the market was booming and Gen Y grew up with no defining movement or driving force to define who they were.
And then the Internet happened.
Experts still aren’t sure exactly how Gen Y has been affected by the internet, except that it has affected them in a big way. While previous generations use it as a tool, Gen Y has integrated the internet so thoroughly into their lives that they often don’t separate the virtual and physical worlds. In the virtual world they are always connected with others, their opinions are always valid and their interests are always met at a moment’s notice, and these are values that they bring back with them into the physical world.
Gen Y thrives in friendly, social and interconnected work environments where everyone is respected, and they struggle under strong hierarchy, preferring collaborative and team-based approaches to management. They don’t like being talked down to or ignored because of their position in the workplace – to them an opinion should be taken on its merits, not by who’s saying it
How can employers attract and retain Gen Y?
What does this mean for employers? Gen Y thrives in friendly, social and interconnected work environments where everyone is respected, and they struggle under strong hierarchy, preferring collaborative and team-based approaches to management. They don’t like being talked down to or ignored because of their position in the workplace – to them an opinion should be taken on its merits, not by who’s saying it. And, most importantly, they want an interesting work environment where they can develop new skills, and one that won’t get in the way of their social life.
That’s a lot of demands for a future employer, so how can employers best attract and retain Gen Y employees? Avril Henry, who has researched generations in the workplace for over 5 years, recommends that new positions should be all about teaching new skills, as Gen Y is more likely to continue working for a company which they can get the most out of. She also recommends being inclusive of Gen Y and always listen to what they have to say, and to give them recognition for a job well done. Remember Gen Y is not about giving their all to a company that doesn’t care, so if you want them to work hard recognising their good work is a good way to do so.
Beyond this, try to incorporate new technologies into the workplace. Gen Y thrives in environments enhanced by technology, as it allows them to make informed decisions quickly and easily, so try and upgrade your infrastructure to take advantage of their expertise. Also make sure your company has a strong online presence, as Gen Y is more likely to use the internet – social networks, blogs, as well as recruitment and corporate websites – to look for new employment opportunities.
But most importantly, always strive for transparency and honesty if you want Gen Y employees to respect you. In the end that’s what it’s all about – respect. If you respect the new generation of employees and strive to fulfil their workplace needs, then they will respect you as an employer and work hard to help your business succeed.
Rosalind is the Principal Consultant of Shaping Change, an Australian consultancy, specialising in improving business outcomes by developing individuals, teams and organisations.
Ros is a solutions and results oriented facilitator and coach, with a career in the Human Resources and Organisational Development field spanning more than 20 years. Ros brings an energetic and proactive approach combined with a wealth of knowledge and experience. Her expertise spans leadership development, organisational culture, team building, change and transition management, organisational behaviour, employee engagement and motivation, strategic direction and management.
Ros is a talented executive and leadership coach, with current coaching clients at Executive and Senior levels in Government agencies, private enterprise and the community sectors. She is a sought after guest speaker and subject matter expert at events and conferences.