Building Employers’ Connections with the Gen Y Workforce: Who Are They and What Does it Take?

October 23rd, 2013
Written by: Admin

A version of this article was originally prepared by TPO for one of its clients, an industry educational foundation.

Generation Y, also known as the Millennial Generation or simply Millenials, numbers around 80 million people in the U.S. born between 1979 and 1999. They are the escalating class that will make up 36% of the workforce by 2014 and 46% by 2020.

A quick review of the widening gap between labor demand and supply shows why Gen Y demands employers’ focus: between 2010 and 2025, up to 95 million Baby Boomers will leave the U.S. workforce or change work focus, but only 40 million workers will be available to replace them. Many industries are struggling and will continue to battle to find younger workers who have the skills and motivation to fill these positions.

What Drives Gen Y? 

While there are differences in attitudes and experiences between Gen Y and Baby Boomers, there is little that should prevent employers from attracting and retaining this talent. With the right approaches, organizations can put themselves in a great position to seize the moment.

First, we must understand the primary Gen Y perspectives. The millennials are the children of the baby boomers. They just cannot be like “us” because their life experiences are very different. They have grown up:

  • Digitally–taking technology, and in many cases, sharing and transparency, for granted.
  • With social media as their 24 x 7 companions.
  • Often as children of divorce.
  • With the 9-11 attacks, school shootings, terrorist warnings/scares, etc., so they are more sheltered than any other generation, as parents strived to protect them from the evils of the world they witnessed.
  • Busy–the first generation to be considered “over-scheduled.”
  • Thinking all things “are possible.”
  • During periods of economic expansion, decline and uncertainty.

As a result, members of Gen Y have unique expectations and characteristics relative to their jobs, including:

  • Working flexibly anytime, any place–because of technology.
  • Being evaluated on work product–not how, when, or where they get it done.
  • Having the ability to influence the terms and conditions of their jobs.
  • Having a work ethic that no longer mandates 10 hour days.
  • Maintaining high expectations of bosses and managers to assist and mentor them in attainment of their professional goals.
  • Wanting long-term relationships with employers, but on their own terms.
  • Favoring “Real Revolution”–a decrease in career ambition in favor of more family time, less travel and personal pressure.
  • Being goal oriented.
  • Looking for meaningful work and innovation.
  • Being obsessed with career development and training.
  • Recognizing that people make the company successful.
  • Being tolerant.
  • Thriving in a collaborative work environment. 

How Can Employers Connect with Gen Y? 

Hiring and retaining millennials starts with an understanding of the premise that their generation does not “live to work.”  They would rather not work, than work in a job that they dislike, or even worse, one that does not deliver on the employer’s recruiting promises. Here are some important tips for attracting, engaging and retaining Gen Y employees:

  • Create a brand/image of doing fun and interesting work–this one is a really big deal.
  • Update your social media presence, particularly for attracting and recruiting millennials; it is the only way they know how to search for careers and jobs.
  • Highlight the role that technology and technology trends play in your industry.
  • Play up the “family” nature of the business–they want their co-workers to be like a second family.
  • Put work in context–millennials want to understand the importance of their work in the organization, and they want to understand the organization’s role in the world.
  • Promote and model work-life balance–they want to enjoy their life now, not wealth later. They look at the aging, strung out Baby Boomers and declare that they do not want what they see.
  • Change things up–millennials yearn for change, so find ways to give them variety and new challenges. Get them involved in a think tank around a problem so they can feel as if there is change and challenge all the time.
  • Be a good, cool, and fun boss–they consider a good boss as a cool one. Cool bosses have fun and let employees have fun; inspiring invention and creativity. Younger managers will often have an easier time creating a social environment with millennials, but retaining the ability to coach and mentor is essential – all bosses need to be careful not to get too close.
  • Create forums for their ideas and opinions to be “heard”–base rewards and recognition on good ideas and process improvements.
  • Create team environments where staff can share ideas and learn from each other–give the old “brown bag” lunch a try.
  • Optimize the training that is available–Gen Y will take advantage of all that is offered to them.
  • Become a corporate citizen–Millennials are very giving-minded and will be attracted to employers who contribute to the greater good.

Make it a priority to focus on the Gen Y workforce. They are a big deal–in numbers and as a source of talent—not to mention as a rapidly growing part of your customer base.


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