Small Business BC

Attracting Generation Y Employees

When it comes to attracting strong talent, it can often be hard to compete with the large businesses, which can offer great compensation and benefit packages. As a result, you are faced with limited access to professional or trade experts. 

With thousands of Baby Boomers retiring every year, it has become the younger Generation Y workers, which businesses are focusing on. But this generation is hard to attract and retain: entering businesses big and small, and advancing quickly through the ranks. 

As a small business owner, you have an advantage. You’re more agile than your large company competitors. You’re able to be flexible to change. If Gen Y doesn’t like what you offer, you do not have to get permission from multiple levels of management to change. By using this agility to focus on the evolving employment practices favored by Generation Y workers (rather than compensation) you will be one step closer to successfully finding and keeping talented Generation Y staff.

Who Is Generation Y?

Generation Y (also known as the Millennial Generation, the ME Generation, and Echo Boomers), has different belief and value systems than their parents’ generation, the Baby Boomers. Composed largely of individuals born between 1980 and 1995, this generation grew up with more adult supervision than any other. North American parenting practices during this generation’s development period were focused on positive reinforcement rather than punishment, empowering the child, and ensuring that there were no winners or losers by eliminating competition in school and other activities. According to Stats Canada, 51% of this generation still lives with their parents.

They are the first generation to have the Internet in their world from infancy and, for most, their bottle and baby food was warmed in a microwave. They are used to instant information, instant food, and instant entertainment. They want instant answers or solutions to problems and they expect success to come quickly and easily. 

From a retail marketing perspective, Generation Y is well targeted. Thousands of products are successfully sold to them every day. But when it comes to offering attractive work environments, compensation, and benefits for Generation Y workers, employers have been slow to understand what they want. Possibly because it is so different from the priorities of their Baby Boomer parents. 

Why Do You Want to Hire Generation Y Workers?

As more Baby Boomers prepare to depart the workforce, valuable knowledge and skills need to be transferred to the next generations taking over the workforce. 

The benefits of the Generation Y worker are that:

  • They can build upon the Boomer’s knowledge and skills.
  • They are comfortable with technology and can use it to improve productivity and therefore profits.
  • They adapt to changing markets and demands easily.

However, members of Generation Y are not particularly loyal. If you don’t offer an appealing work situation you will have a hard time convincing them to work for you. If unhappy, they will simply find a company that caters more to their value and belief systems. 

To please Gen Y workers, you must first understand their perspective. Even if you do not hold the same values and beliefs as them you must be prepared to change. 

As a small business it is easy for you to change to accommodate the needs of the top Generation Y talent. The key is actually knowing what they want.

What Do Generation Y Employees Want?

Based on what we know about Generation Y individuals, we can assume a few of their wants and needs:

  • Work-Life Balance
    Gen Y wants flexible work options, compressed workweeks, reduced workweeks, and telecommuting options. Although not a new trend, flexible working is now a necessity rather than a nice to have.

  • Consistent Feedback and Recognition
    Generation Y wants daily feedback. They need constant informal reminders that as an individual and/or team they are doing a good job and they want to know how they can improve. They prefer consistent informal feedback rather than annual performance reviews. They expect leaders to take a vested interest in their own individual development and provide clear career paths.

    Creating a culture where feedback and recognition is second nature takes time. Creating this type of work environment isn’t expensive, but requires a lot investment of time.

  • Freedom of Creativity
    Gen Y individuals look for jobs that allow them the freedom to be creative and autonomous. As a small business you are likely to be able to allow employees to be creative with minimal constraint. Small businesses should use that advantage to attract Gen Y workers.

  • Empower to Solve Problems
    Generation Y is technologically sophisticated and, if you allow them, they will find efficient, moneysaving ways of doing things. By empowering them to solve a problem and recognizing those solutions as valuable, you will soon have your employees treating your business like it’s their own.

  • Training and Development
    Gen Y craves knowledge. Providing a yearly training and development allowance will help your employees grow with and become invested in the business, while fulfilling their desire for self-improvement.

  • Say Yes To Social Media – With Boundaries
    Generation Y is fueled by social media. It is part of their life, and a major communications avenue for them. No matter how much you, as an employer, try to suppress their online communication habits, they will find a way to engage in social media.

    Instead of outlawing what they use the most, attract and retain Gen Y by including social media in your communication systems. Set boundaries by ensuring proper social media polices are in place and effectively manage and implement them.

  • Give Back: Don’t Just Take
    Generation Y was brought up to be aware of others and to care for those less fortunate than themselves.

    Although you may not have the budget that large organizations have to allocate to volunteering, but you can still support employees by providing them an outlet. That could mean giving them the time to complete a charitable activity. Or it could mean joining with them to do something like the Food Drive. It might cost a little budget, but the engagement, productivity, and positive PR it brings to the business will outweigh the cost associated with it. 

It may be difficult for you to compete with the compensation and benefit packages offered by many large organizations but you have the advantage of being able to provide intangible options. By branding yourself as a progressive, supportive, creative, and open-minded workplace, and more importantly, living up to that brand, you are sure to get the Gen Y workers you need. 

About The Author

Abbas Kazi, MA

Abbas works as an independent Human Resources / Recruitment Specialist through his company, 5 to 50 HR.

Prior to starting his own company, Abbas worked in Management and HR capacity for various Fortune 500 companies in US and Canada. He has worked in professional services, hospitality, banking, non-profit, gaming, and retail sectors.

Abbas has a graduate degree in Human Resources Management and undergraduate education in Communication Studies and Information Technology.

Abbas can be reached at abbaskazi@hradvise.ca

Articles and blog posts written by Abbas Kazi, MA

Abbas Kazi, MA

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