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HIRING

Field Guide to Hiring Gen Y

You may think Gen Y employees are flighty, but new research reveals many are desperate to stick around. Well, if you provide a few basic incentives.
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So-called "Generation Y" (a.k.a. "the Millennials") has't gotten a great deal of love from the media. Called "entitled" and "flighty" before the Great Recession hit, they're now the subject of much media hand wringing about how early unemployment and monstrous student-loan burdens will affect their long-term prospects. But whatever you may have heard about this cohort—or if you're part of it!—you're going to have to hire them. Research last year concluded they'll make up 75 percent of the workforce by 2025.

So what's the reality behind Gen Y's muddled public persona? Are they callous-job hoppers or the economic walking wounded desperate for any job they can get? And whichever it is, how can your business hire and keep the best of them? Employee recognition company Achievers partnered with Experience recently to find out, polling more than 8,000 young people to produce an in-depth picture of how this group is job hunting and what they expect from their employers. Some of the results—which were released Tuesday—may surprise you.

Yup, social media is important, but forget Facebook for HR.

With the recent bombardment of stories about Facebook and recruiting, you'd think the social network was the primary job-hunting destination for Gen Y. Not so, say the Achievers results, which show only 7 percent of young folks look for gigs on the site. Instead, LinkedIn is the place to attract your next Gen-Y hire. Thirty-five percent of young people utilize LinkedIn as their top social media platform when looking for a job, and that number has increased a whopping 700 percent in the last two years.

Facebook may not be prime fishing grounds for Gen Y candidates, but social media and your online employer brand is key in other ways, according to Razor Suleman, founder and chairman of Achievers. "As a small business owner you always want the best candidates and there's never a recession for the best candidates. They get multiple offers—they're like NBA draft picks. As an employer you need to make sure that you're attractive to that high-caliber candidate. Social media and employer brand has never been more important," he says, noting that 80 percent of Gen Y candidates report checking out a potential employer's Web presence.

Money matters, but not exclusively.

Forty percent of Gen Y told the pollsters they expect their first job out of school to pay between $50,000 to $75,000. "It's high," says Suleman, but other survey results suggests smaller companies can take advantage of the gap between what young people expect and what most companies actually pay. Gen Y may be a little delusional about what they're worth, but money isn't their ultimate motivator. So while smaller firms might not be able to offer the highest pay, they are better placed to entice Gen Y with something they want more: career advancement. Fifty-four percent of respondents told Achievers that career advancement opportunities are more important than salary when looking for work

"If you're a small business you probably don't have the resources to compete financially," Suleman says, but with your relative lack of bureaucratic hurdles you can offer career progression, coaching and meaningful work, which matter more. And competing on the basis of the overall career proposition rather than salary has advantages. "If you win a candidate over because of money, you're probably going to lose them because of money," in short order, says Suleman. "But if you offer a candidate a chance to grow and develop that actually builds more loyalty and you'll start to get two, three, four, five [years] out of them."

Gen Y wants to come in from the cold.

It's undeniable that Gen Y changes jobs a lot. The Bureau of Labor Statistics says the average tenure for this cohort is a measly 1.5 years. But just because Gen Y ends up switching jobs every 18 months doesn't mean they like the situation. In fact, more than one in five young people who spoke to Achievers want to stay with an employer 10 years or longer. The average preferred tenure was 4.7 years. So what's stopping them from staying as long as they'd like?

"They want to stay four or five years but their expectations aren't being met," says Suleman. What do Gen Yers need to stick around? Simple, low cost things like career advancement. "They don't expect to start at the corner office but they do expect to have a progression," so Suleman urges small businesses to show young hires a clear path to small promotions.

Feedback is also important. "80 percent expected instant feedback on the fly," Suleman says of the survey results, noting how absurd annual reviews seem to a generation that spent their childhoods surrounded by coaches and the instant feedback of video games. So overcome the inertia of traditional practices to provide Gen Y management style they crave and you may see them stick around much longer than expected.

Interested in learning more about the survey? Achievers is offering a free webinar on Thursday, April 5 to explain the results in detail.

Do you think it's possible to actually get Gen Y to stick around?

Last updated: Apr 3, 2012

JESSICA STILLMAN

Jessica Stillman is a freelance writer based in London with interests in unconventional career paths, generational differences, and the future of work. She has blogged for CBS MoneyWatch, GigaOM, and Brazen Careerist.




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