Recruiting and engaging Gen Y

Gen Y are the future of the workforce but they can get a bad rap. HRM looks at the differences, misconceptions and motivators for your youngest workers

The common perception of Gen Y is that they are lazy, apathetic, demanding, high expectations. But is this  really the case? The most highly educated cohort to ever enter the workforce, these 20 to 30-year-olds are actually driven, technologically competent and focused, and they’re looking for a challenge. That sounds like some ideal employee traits.

By 2025 Gen Y will make up 75% of the world’s workforce, so how can you attract, engage and retain these workers? 

“The recruiting process doesn’t need to be any different, but it’s about not focusing on just one avenue,” Maurice Fernandes from Ceridian said. “You need to expand out to where Gen Y typically hang out.”

When it comes to advertising and interviewing it’s time to look past some of the traditional means, and let go of outdated rules. The majority of young people are job hunting through social media and connections – they’re on Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn talking to their connections, not necessarily sifting through job boards.

And, while the general rule is to focus on the role you’re hiring for and not discuss the potential for promotion, Gen Y tend to be focused on where they can go and what the next challenge will be. Give them specifics of what they need to achieve in the job on offer, and in what timeframe, to get to the next step.

“They need to see a clear path to promotion or mobility within the organization and they really value international and global career opportunities,” Fernandes said. “They do require clear goals for the path they’re assigned to and with that they require constant feedback and coaching on how they’re doing,”

So once you have them, how do you keep them?

HR consultant Donna Morano, from Brown Consulting, said Gen Y have a sense of confidence (thanks to their praise-positive parents) that Gen X and Baby Boomers lacked, which can be off-putting if it’s not understood. They’re also very technology focused and are used to immediate information – hence the focus on instant and frequent feedback.

Another area of conflict comes from the fact that Gen Y don’t have a focus on longevity. They’re likely to change employers and even careers much more often than their predecessors.

“Loyalty for them is not necessarily the same as it would be for their parents. It’s important to engage them right from the start,”  Morano said. “You want to get them when they join you and keep them interested.”

She suggested getting them involved in teamwork, including opportunities to lead teams. As with recruiting, Gen Y is always looking at the next step so if you don’t keep up with their learning and development you’re likely to lose their interest.

Top tips:

  1. Advertise in the right places
     Shift your focus from newspapers and other traditional venues for job ads. But even if you’re already up on Workopolis or Monster, and you’re looking into Facebook jobs, it might not be enough to find the top Gen Y candidates.  Gen Y is networking with friends and connections online, using those relationships to find the right role for them.
  2. Include Gen Y colleagues in the interview process
    Next time you’re sifting through resumes or sitting down to an interview take a look around. Are all the people involved over 35? You might find you get better results if you include someone from the generation you’re trying to attract, Fernandes said. They speak the same language and might spot something you missed.
  3. Know what they’re looking at and how they’re looking
    Many Gen Y candidates care deeply about their employer’s CSR, sustainability and diversity – and they have the tools to find out the details. Make sure your website, Facebook page and Twitter feed meet the standard – an outdated look could put off your future-facing candidates. Optimize your job site for mobile technology too. Many Gen Y-ers are focused on their phones when it comes to exploring job options.
  4. Show them their options
     Don’t play coy and simply focus on the role at hand. Lay the possibilities out for your candidate. For example: If you meet Goal A (within X timeframe) then you’ll be looking at a promotion to Role B. While you’re working for us you’ll get to train in a specialty area, work with these different departments and within two years you can expect to have the opportunity to move into any one of these roles… Gen Y want to know they’re not just getting a job – they’re getting a varied and interesting career.

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