How to meet Gen Y’s expectations

by 30 Oct 2007

THE GENERATIONAL model is a good shortcut to better attracting, managing and retaining young staff, according to an expert in generational change.

With decreased supply of quality talent and increased demand for it at the same time, the demands and expectations of younger staff have been getting more attention of late.

While pigeonholing employees and potential employees may create generalisations, the tight labour market allows Generation Y to walk when their demands aren’t meant.

“Managing Gen Y is an art-form, and it is correct to identify their expectations as sometimes demanding (although I wouldn’t go so far as to say unrealistic). The trick is to do what you can with the resources you have, and also to be willing to draw a clear line somewhere,” said Peter Sheahan.

He said Generation Y is not necessarily asking for anything entirely new. “Who of any generation doesn’t want flexible working hours, fast promotion, respect from management and real responsibility?”

However, employers need to realise that Gen Y have some fresh demands that haven’t been seen to the same degree in previous generations, he said.

For instance, the ‘superficial’ is now important. Gen Y candidates are increasingly likely to ask questions of their interviewers like “what’s your carbon footprint”? And the response the company gives to the candidate could lead them to say no to a job offer.

When it comes to retention, the single biggest driver of attrition is the failure to meet expectations. So crafting your employer brand to make it truly representative of your corporate identity (rather than just telling them what you think they want to hear) is an important first step to retention, said Sheahan.

Another important aspect in dealing with Gen Y and generational differences in general is the facilitation of open communication.

“Keeping Gen Y happy and communicating with them prevents the negative effects of the teams they are situated with,” said LINK Recruitment consultant, Sarah Nutt.

“Knowledge and communication is the most important thing in retaining a Gen Y. They need to know exactly what they have to do to achieve their goals.”

Having a clear structure as soon as they commence and regular quarterly meetings to discuss what they’ve achieved and what they need to do moving forward is essential.

“Also, let them meet their future manager in an interview as their idea of a mentor can prove very attractive,” said Nutt. “Although they do want to be promoted quickly they are aware they have to do hard work to get there and having someone to aspire to helps retain them.”

Mark Harrison, partner in charge of HR at accounting firm Pitcher Partners, has taken this requirement for keeping all lines of access open to their Gen Y staff.

Pitcher Partners in Melbourneemploys approximately 260 Gen Y staff under the age of 28, representing just over 50 per cent of its overall headcount.

“We are very aware that Gen Y needs and appreciates regular feedback and are confident to ask for it. We have an open door policy which we are always keen to emphasise so they can get feedback from managers and partners and all senior staff, both formally and informally,”said Harrison.

Opportunities for career progression are also essential, as all three experts acknowledged Gen Y’s need for a distinct career path and challenge. As such, Pitcher Partners have developed specific programs within the organisation.

“Within the practice they’re working immediately with clients and get a lot of responsibility from early on, so they like to feel that is part of their career progression,” said Harrison.

Corporate social responsibility programs, pro-bono work and the chance to work with charities are also provided, while work-life balance and flexible working hours are also monitored.

“We have a secondment program for all our staff so they get to travel domestically or internationally to other offices within our affiliated practices fulfilling their desire for variety and challenge,”Harrison said.


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