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Staffing Management: A Day's Work

Kathy Gurchiek   4/1/2008
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Vol. 4, No. 2

'Cool' Factor Can Attract Gen Y

Corporate social responsibility, "career pathing," directness and branding are hooks employers can use to reel in Generation Y talent.

A high coolness factor helps, too.

That's among advice doled out in a recent webinar on recruiting and retaining the estimated 70.4 million members of Generation Y.

"They prefer directness over subtlety, action over observation and cool over all else," according to Debra Lynn, director of PeopleFilter Technology, during the webcast "Recruiting Gen Y: It's All About Online."

They are the children of the estimated 78 million U.S. baby boomers, the progeny of soccer moms and dads who saw to it that they were constantly rewarded.

Born between 1979 and 1999, or 1981 and 2000—definitions vary—they have been targeted for marketing since birth and are "heavily influenced by their peers and brand names," Lynn noted.

They are high performers who will put in the hours but want a work/life balance. They have no desire to be chained to a desk from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.

"They don't want to be us," Lynn said. "They don't want to go through what their parents or even their grandparents went through" by spending enormous amounts of time working.

This well-educated, well-traveled, ethnically diverse and technologically savvy generation expects flexible work schedules and options such as telecommuting. They want work to be fun but meaningful, and they want to be paid more—although nonprofits can tap into this generation's desire to feel a sense of purpose, Lynn said.

She pointed to a 2007 CareerBuilder survey of hiring managers and HR professionals that found some or most Generation Y workers have high expectations of the compensation, benefits and career advancement they think should come their way.

Employers looking to tap into this pool of talent—also referred to as Millennials and Nexters—need to re-think the strategies used to recruit boomers and Generation X, she emphasized.

Forget classified job ads in the newspaper. They don't catch Gen Y's attention, and even Internet-based job boards have limited success with that group, who become frustrated when they don't receive a response from the employer, even if it's to thank them for their application.

"It seems like a frivolous thing … but don't leave them hanging not knowing whether they 'have a date for the prom,' " Lynn said.

Instead, reach them through social networking sites such as Facebook, MySpace and LinkedIn, and build a recruiting relationship by finding a common ground. Once they are recruited, make them feel a part of the organization even before they come on board.

When Yahoo! makes a job offer, the candidate receives a purple envelope-like box that when opened emits the Yahoo voice. That savvy, fun branding effort "makes you feel like an insider," Lynn pointed out.

Employment branding is important in recruiting and retaining this generation of workers. Other steps she suggested for employers include:

  • Offer "career pathing." Show how Point A will lead to Point B and provide a sense of what they are going to earn along the way.
  • Position yourself as an employer-of-choice. This includes evidence of corporate social responsibility.
  • Make the candidate experience smooth with an easy application, assessment and onboarding process.
  • Talk to them, not at them—97 percent own a computer, 94 percent own a cell phone, and 76 percent use instant messaging (IM).
  • Build relationships.
  • Provide feedback.
  • Provide mentoring and training.

"It's really about the overall balance," Lynn said, "of what they get back" from the employer.

Kathy Gurchiek is associate editor for HR News.

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