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2008 GAMA Awards



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May 2008

Recruit and Retain Gen Y

If you’ve been recruiting staff in recent years, you have probably met them. They have been given many names, possibly to help us wrap our heads around their sometimes-confounding ways of approaching a new career or interacting with you during an interview. This newest demographic has been called Gen Y, millennials or the entitlement generation, and if you haven’t met them yet, don’t worry, you will.

This group consists primarily of people born between 1980 and 1994, so they’re in their early teens to late 20s. They are the children of the large baby-boomer generation and many industries, including financial services, are beginning to feel their presence and influence in the workplace. To understand this group better, I interviewed almost a dozen people from this age range. What I discovered was very interesting.

As with preceding generations, this group were raised in their own unique era filled with defining and disturbing moments in history that have impacted them greatly. They are the most racially and ethnically diverse generation in history and the most educated generation to date with over 60 per cent of males and females attending some form of post-secondary institution? More than half of them are children of divorce.

A unique gift this group possesses is an unquenchable thirst for the “new” as well as a focus and reliance on technological advancement. With the invention of and access to the Internet, e-mail, text messages, cell phones, etc., Gen Ys were reared in a world where a button brought instant gratification and before they had their first kiss, they probably had a PDA.

Understanding the world Gen Ys come from may help managers realize that it takes a different set of skills and criteria to motivate and inspire them in the workplace. Managers may find themselves needing to change their business practices to retain their best advisors from this generation.

Tell them what the goal is: They can be high achievers who have benefited from parental guidance in their lives. They thrive on concrete milestones and want to understand the steps they need to take to achieve success. Eventually, they will make the process their own, but initially they want to be shown ?

Provide constant feedback: Remember that they are used to an instantaneous world and are accustomed to steady communication and information access. Gen Ys respond well to individualized attention; one-on-one mentoring will communicate a sense of caring and instil a sense of loyalty to the manager providing it.

Let them participate: They want to be a part of the decision-making process in matters that have impact on their lives. Create opportunities to bring about a stronger sense of ownership and buy-in to the larger organization.

Provide solid training: Being better educated than previous generations, Gen Ys expect to be taught well and given the right tools to complete their tasks. This means that access to corporate training programs, mentoring opportunities and CE through such things as podcasts are essential to connecting with this group. They can process vast amounts of information; you need to know they will seek it out.

Put them on teams: They enjoy making achievements as a group and belonging to a unit, as opposed to being individual performers. They have been raised as part of a network — technologically and socially — so working together breeds creativity and satisfaction. If you can, recruit groups of these people at once. Introduce them to one another early on in the process and let them get their licences and training together. This may help with retention in the future as well.

Career satisfaction and balance: They will seek positions that best use their talents and interests. They are content to change jobs until they find a position that aligns with their personal and professional goals. They want success but are not willing to work 60 hours a week to get it; they want to enjoy life along the way.

Gen Ys are educated, motivated and technologically savvy. Just because they don’t learn or work the same as you or are motivated by the same things you are doesn’t make them less able to do the job. Accepting this different mindset about work presents a new challenge for managers. The future of your organization may rest on your ability to do so.

Greg Powell



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