Attracting the younger generation

Salary tops the list, but fun casual environment also important

With the baby boomers heading out the door, employers need to focus on how to attract the next generation of workers. Generation Y, born between 1977 and 1990, have grown up in a different world than their parents and have different expectations of the workplace. In fact, Generation Y was described as “the most demanding generation in history” by Bruce Tulgan and Carolyn Martin in Managing the Generation Mix – Part II.

But once organizations understand what motivates these workers, they’re better able to attract and retain them in an ever-tightening labour market.

In conducting research for our book Bridging the Generation Gap we asked 500 Gen Ys the question, “What’s important to you on the job?” The top three responses were: quality of friendships; feeling they can make a contribution on the job; and a feeling of safety.

These workers like an organization where they can create friendships much like they did in school. In other words, an organization must have a social flair to catch their eyes. Some examples include company sports leagues or company social events (such as a movie night or meeting after work for a drink). But these quality relationships must go along with feeling like what they do adds value to the organization.

Recognizing what is important to these young workers isn’t enough if the organization doesn’t incorporate some of the key issues that entice them to join an organization.

The same sample of 500 Gen Ys yielded the top three ways to get this generation to join an organization: salary; a friendly, casual work environment; and growth and development opportunities.

It isn’t surprising salary was on top, given the money that was thrown around in the late 1990s when the first Gen Ys were entering the workforce. And, unfortunately for businesses, but fortunately for these individuals, high salaries and a signing bonus are likely to continue given the labour shortage.

But it isn’t all about money. They want to see opportunities to grow their skills, knowledge and abilities through on-the-job experiences, mentorships, training and learning from others.

There are many other benefits organizations can offer to entice younger workers. These include:

•state-of-the-art technology;

•opportunities to volunteer in the community (on company time);

•a reputation for regular feedback;

•a tuition reimbursement program (even non-related courses);

•strong reward and recognition programs;

•casual work environment;

•a connection to the mission and vision; and

•community involvement.

Establishing a culture with these types of benefits will attract the Gen Ys but organizations first need to find this crowd. Organizations have to think about how to position recruiting to reach these workers.

The younger generation is going to take advantage of every ounce of technology to make their job search successful and easier. Organizations need to advertise jobs on multiple online job boards, including local, national and trade related. Organizations should also create a job board on the company’s website that should be regularly updated and provide an easy and responsive way for candidates to apply online.

Where companies advertise isn’t the only thing that needs to change. Gone are the days of receiving resumés via snail mail. This tech-savvy generation likes to apply immediately and get feedback immediately. The posting should include an e-mail for the HR department or an application process. For the process to succeed, organizations must regularly check the applications and follow up with candidates.

The actual copy of the ads is critical. Certain key words attract these individuals to an organization’s ads when they do online searches. The younger generation likes short, snappy copy that gets right to the point of what they will be doing. But of equal or more importance, the ad needs to advertise the culture of the organization as it relates to the values of this generation. The ads should include statements such as:

•fast-paced environment;

•individual contribution;

•work-life balance;

•family friendly;

•do it your way;

•opportunity to grow;

•no rules; and

•state-of-the-art technology.

Organizations should only list these kinds of features in the ad if they truly offer them. Otherwise, the organization will see just how fast these workers will leave a company that doesn’t fulfill its promises.

The Gen Ys provide a large pool of talent eager to be groomed for the workforce and ready to fill in the gaps. Organizations need to evaluate what they are doing to attract and retain the younger generation and make changes now to ensure the company successfully rides out the labour storm.

Robin Throckmorton and Linda Gravett are the authors of Bridging the Generation Gap: How to Get Radio Babies, Boomers, Gen Xers and Gen Yers to Work Together and Achieve More.

Automating pensions
Young workers want automatic retirement planning

For the generation used to instant gratification and lightening-fast technology, the idea of sifting through pension plan options is unappealing. Young workers would rather their employers automatically managed their pension plans for them, according to a recent survey by Prudential Financial.

The Fifth Annual Workplace Report on Retirement Planning, released last November by Prudential Retirement, found 66 per cent of workers between 21 and 30 would feel “grateful” or “optimistic” if employers automatically enrolled them in workplace-provided defined contribution (DC) plans.

The survey revealed young workers would be equally enthusiastic about an automatic approach to other key components of DC plan management, including mandated minimum-contribution rates, a program of gradually but automatically increasing contribution levels and defaults into investment options that employ asset-allocation modeling based on age and risk-tolerance.

In the most common types of DC plans, all decisions about participation, savings rates and investment choices are currently the responsibility of individual plan participants.

“Today’s youngest workers are keenly aware that the existing ‘do-it-yourself’ approach to managing workplace-provided defined contribution programs isn’t delivering the retirement security (they) want and need,” said John Kim, president of Prudential Retirement.

When asked how they would feel if their employer went beyond automatic enrolment and mandated a minimum standard for initial contribution rates, 54 per cent of young workers said they would feel “grateful” or “optimistic” for the help.

In addition, more than half of the young workers surveyed had a similar reaction to an automatic plan feature that would gradually increase contribution levels. A clear majority said “go for it” or “give it a shot” when asked about an automatic asset allocation program that would place them in default investment options based on their risk tolerance and years to retirement.

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