Recruitment Tips, Employer Trends, and Hiring Insights from CareerBuilder

Generational Hiring > Retention > Talent Acquisition

Generation Y candidates ask, “What Have You Done for Me Lately?”

Although some Gen Yers are familiar with Janet Jackson’s Control-era music, or even just her infamous wardrobe incident, they aren’t necessarily singing this song to their bosses during morning meetings (that would be kind of awkward.)

But Gen Y candidates are turning the tables on employers and asking them what they can bring to the table. The candidates you interview, some of whom will likely turn into employees, expect that you will give them more than a paycheck. You may often find yourself in the uncomfortable position of courting them, rather than the other way around. Today, candidates are often better equipped with a mental checklist of what they want in an employer; they’re aware, informed and connected; and they’re more confident. With their pulse on the Web, they may know things about your company that you’re not even aware of.

And boy, do they have questions. What are your benefits? How about professional development opportunities such as seminars, classes, and even the option to further his or her degree? What diversity initiatives do you have in place? Are you a green company? How so? What about flexible scheduling options? Are you up-to-date on mobile working trends? And on and on.

The questions can be mind boggling and may seem to come from left field, if you’re not up to speed as an employer on the characteristics and needs of this generation. It’s a different game in the workplace now, with company staffs comprised of multiple generations – and hence multiple styles of working. How do you incorporate Gen Yers into a culture accustomed to the ways of Gen Xers, baby boomers, and retirees?

Generation Y (also referred to as “Millenials”) includes those born between 1980 and 1995 and is the fastest-growing segment of the American work force today. Despite being nearly 80 million people strong, it is also one of the least understood (therefore, often most frustrating) generations for employers to connect with.

With baby boomer retirement on the horizon, having the ability to navigate the unique demands of Gen Y candidates and employees will only become more vital for you and your company’s successful growth. Gen Y workers are tech savvy, financially smart, both high performance and high maintenance, and socially conscious. They expect many things from employers – they are interested in personal and professional advancement, and they want to be part of a company offering high quality of life and a range of benefits. They are not the only generation wanting these things, of course, as the entire work force dynamic is shifting, especially with the mix of a changing economy and rapidly growing technology – but these traits are often characteristic of Gen Yers.

Although the generational workplace issue is a large one to tackle, let’s start with attraction and retention of Gen Y workers themselves. How do you appeal to them…and then what do you do to prevent them from locking themselves in the bathroom and crying because they hate your company? (Or, how do you make them want to stay with your company, for you non-dramatics.)

Here’s a few ideas to start thinking about…

Get ‘em in the door…

1. Host a networking happy hour for job seekers to come learn more about your company culture. In a relaxed environment, candidates can open up more, connect with peers as well as with members of your staff, and create dialogue in a casual, non-interview atmosphere.

2. Focus on diversity initiatives, retirement plan offerings, and telecommuting or other flex-time options in your job branding – and in your communication with Gen Yers. Workers now want more options in their work schedules, their commutes, their work space, and more – and they want to know that you’re committed to a diverse work force.

3. Be cutting-edge by joining social networking sites such as Facebook and creating an online company presence and personality. Hey, become our fan and start exploring!

4. Consider adding more interactive features like blogs (ahem), virtual games, or self-assessment quizzes to your Web site.

5. Draw on the latest technology such as video branding or (non-Janet Jackson) viral YouTube videos to speak to candidates’ visual nature.

Keep ‘em around…

1. Gen Yers are big on connectivity, so make mobile technology accessible to them. The lines between work and personal hours are now more blurred than ever, and many workers like to do work outside of the office setting, as well as outside of the standard 9-to-5 hours.

2. Instill a casual dress code or offer casual dress days. Gen Y is accustomed to a more casual work environment – and their dress code goes along with this. They’re generally more comfortable in jeans than suits, so if your office environment doesn’t require formal attire, think about at least starting up “casual Fridays” or something similar.

3. Encourage volunteering opportunities or become involved company-wide in a philanthropic cause. Philanthropy is a significant factor for many Gen Y candidates, and if your company fosters an environment of helping others as well as investing in employees’ personal development, you will not only attract candidates but will give them a reason to stay. More on getting started in a philanthropic cause here.

4. Offer tuition reimbursement for continuing education and other educational opportunities such as seminars, workshops, classes, or even an MBA or job-related degree to further their professional advancement. It will pay off for them, of course, but their learnings will also make them a more valuable employee for your company.

5. Implement “green” policies such as recycling into the workplace. And remember, you can start small, but candidates and employees alike want to know that you’re committed to becoming an environmentally friendly company – even if you’re not quite there yet.

What attraction and retention tactics have worked for you? Does anything in particular elude you about Gen Y candidates or employees?

Amy McDonnell

About Amy McDonnell

Originally hailing from Ohio, Amy is the creative services manager on the content services team and has been with both CareerBuilder and the city of Chicago for nearly a decade. She writes on a range of recruitment topics on The Hiring Site, striving to bring a dose of clarity and humor to sometimes complicated issues around employee attraction, engagement and retention. When she's not working, Amy spends as much time as possible reading, pretending to be a chef, writing short stories, eating Nutella out of the jar, waiting for CTA buses and trains, going to see her favorite bands live, and spending time with people who inspire and challenge her.
8 comments
Ron Meledandri - Sentra Business Solutions
Ron Meledandri - Sentra Business Solutions

In answer to your question, I really have not changed my beliefs or policies very much. I have always believed in focusing on results, not the process. I have never been concerned with how many hours employees work, what time they come in or leave, etc. I just want the job to be done properly and for everyone to do things legally and ethically. I do have certain professional standards. I am sure, for example, that most Gen Y employees would not like my dress code. Nevertheless, I stick to it because I have seen that dress does affect the way employees act. My philosophies on hiring and motivation are too long to discuss here, but if you are interested, you can read my blog. .... and thanks for your reply.

Ron Meledandri - Sentra Business Solutions
Ron Meledandri - Sentra Business Solutions

In answer to your question, I really have not changed my beliefs or policies very much. I have always believed in focusing on results, not the process. I have never been concerned with how many hours employees work, what time they come in or leave, etc. I just want the job to be done properly and for everyone to do things legally and ethically. I do have certain professional standards. I am sure, for example, that most Gen Y employees would not like my dress code. Nevertheless, I stick to it because I have seen that dress does affect the way employees act. My philosophies on hiring and motivation are too long to discuss here, but if you are interested, you can read my blog. .... and thanks for your reply.

Amy Chulik
Amy Chulik

Penny, thanks for your feedback - I love hearing stories from companies like yours. It's great that Sun Microsystems is so forward-thinking in implementing a lot of these strategies in order to target Gen Yers. In addition to the positive feedback, have you gotten a lot of questions from peers/others in the industry wondering how to start getting involved in social media tactics or start gearing their attraction/retention strategies more toward Gen Y needs? I'm also curious as to how any other generations at your company (Gen X, baby boomers, retirees) have responded to some of the things that you're doing...

Amy Chulik
Amy Chulik

Ron, thanks for your comment - I think that's a good point. Whether an idea is coming from a subordinate or a boss, a bad idea is still a bad idea. However, I think that some ideas need to be tested - and that's part of the learning process...if you don't try new things at times you're stagnant, right?

More important than implementing every employee idea, I think, is encouraging a culture where employees feel that they can voice their opinions and contribute - and that even if their ideas are not always implemented, that their voice is heard. And it sounds like you are doing that in a smart way; their new ideas and your business sense of what will/won't work based on your experiences is a great balance.

Have you noticed a shift in the way that you do business or in employees' needs or work styles since younger Gen Y workers have come onto the scene?

Amy Chulik
Amy Chulik

Ron, thanks for your comment - I think that's a good point. Whether an idea is coming from a subordinate or a boss, a bad idea is still a bad idea. However, I think that some ideas need to be tested - and that's part of the learning process...if you don't try new things at times you're stagnant, right?

More important than implementing every employee idea, I think, is encouraging a culture where employees feel that they can voice their opinions and contribute - and that even if their ideas are not always implemented, that their voice is heard. And it sounds like you are doing that in a smart way; their new ideas and your business sense of what will/won't work based on your experiences is a great balance.

Have you noticed a shift in the way that you do business or in employees' needs or work styles since younger Gen Y workers have come onto the scene?

Penny Hunt
Penny Hunt

You hit it right on!
At Sun Microsystems we are embracing the new generation and have a solid track record in continuing to be on the forefront in capturing Gen-Yers
Our company is known as Eco-Friendly in the workplace and beyond achieving corporate awards.
We promote our work from home and life-work balance opportunities.
We continue to increase gaming initiatives for candidates interested in learning more about us-just check us out on Second Life or our new employee page.
Blogging -we provide corporate transparency from our Executive Staff to our entry level professional ranks. In fact-this is where we really shine.
We continue to build our mixed media messaging with positive feedback from the public and as a company embrace social networking-especially Facebook!
As all of us move forward in re-branding our organizations; at Sun, we are ready and able to continue to hire the best engineers on a global basis. Thanks for the article- it is great to see we are doing what we should be!

Ron Meledandri - Sentra Business Solutions
Ron Meledandri - Sentra Business Solutions

I have owned and operated my own businesses since 1983. My philospohy used to revolve around accomodating the employees. Often I would implement their ideas and try to operate per their culture because I felt it would make them happy and thus, they would work harder and the company would be more successful. I beleived if it was their idea, they would make it work. If they work within "their culture," they would be more successful. I was wrong. A bad idea is a bad idea. A bad work culture does not lead to success. I still listen to my employees and I still implement their ideas - but only if I too believe that it is a good idea and it will work.

Ron Meledandri - Sentra Business Solutions
Ron Meledandri - Sentra Business Solutions

I have owned and operated my own businesses since 1983. My philospohy used to revolve around accomodating the employees. Often I would implement their ideas and try to operate per their culture because I felt it would make them happy and thus, they would work harder and the company would be more successful. I beleived if it was their idea, they would make it work. If they work within "their culture," they would be more successful. I was wrong. A bad idea is a bad idea. A bad work culture does not lead to success. I still listen to my employees and I still implement their ideas - but only if I too believe that it is a good idea and it will work.

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