Much is talked about Generation Y, those born after 1980, and how employers must rethink their approach to recruitment, job design, management and motivation in order to attract and retain these individuals.
Generation Y we are told are different, they are not just internet savvy but internet native. They have been mollycoddled from birth and have been brought up to expect more and to be treated with respect. They are apparently success driven, bored by routine and expect work life balance from day one or they will simply walk away from an employer who doesn’t meet their expectations.
Having spent years evaluating candidates I can tell you I don’t put much store in stereotypes. There is no doubt in my mind that every individual is different, their wants and needs or motivators rarely conform to stereotype or preconception. Indeed the imperative to evaluate individuals on skill and ability rather than generation has been enshrined in law and thankfully so.
However, for those with the view that they can have it all their own way, be they Baby Boomer, generations X or Y, the juggernaut that is economic reality will sooner or later flatten all but the most exceptional few.
Yes we are in a candidate driven market and, at interview, employers have to sell the role to the candidates as much as the candidates must sell themselves, but at the end of the day employers cannot be held to ransom.
This has never been more true than in the current economic climate. There are enough redundancies across all industries to mean that you cannot be assured of walking straight into a new role. Therefore at an individual level the imperatives of paying the bills have to take precedence over selfish expectation. At a business level, businesses must be run as just that rather than comfy social networks for the benefit of Prima Dona employees.
What should employers do for Generation Y?
The short answer to this is largely what they are doing for all potential and existing staff. Yes generation Y are demanding and internet native but so are a wide cross section of the labour force. New technologies and imperatives apply to getting the best out of all sectors of the talent pool. In terms of recruitment employers should promote themselves effectively across all media available to them. Missing out whole communications channels risks limiting the talent available to an employer. Where applicable consider flexible working; it can mean the difference between keeping or loosing some staff or allow them to deliver more value. Once on board businesses should ensure staff are motivated and all going in the right direction by effective communication of goals, strategy, values and expectation.
No it’s not unreasonable to expect staff to do as they are told, but if you want them chomping at the bit give them an understanding of where they are going, why and what value it is. Communicate their contribution rather than focusing on generation, race or gender stereotypes. It is contribution to the success of the business which is important for everyone’s security.
I am Generation Y – what should I do?
It does not matter whether were born after 1980 or not there are broader issues at play here. We all want reward, interesting work and good work life balance but there is no work life balance without work. Businesses operate in a competitive environment and, as we have seen, those who don’t do well don’t survive. Early in any role, no matter what your age, you should expect to show more commitment and effort in order to establish yourself; respect is earned not given. If you walk away from situations you don’t like too readily and too frequently you will damage your future employability. You should not expect to take career breaks, e.g. to travel the world, without affecting your employability. Technology, one of the factors said to differentiate Generation Y, moves so rapidly that you will quickly become out of date so if you are returning from a break you will be less attractive than someone active in the market. In client facing roles where contacts and market knowledge are important again currently active candidates are usually more attractive to employers.
In recent years we have seen both skilled immigrants coming into the UK packaging sector and manufacturing moving to lower cost economies. Employers and employees alike need to remember they are interdependent. The global economy will savage both if either side try to have it all their own way.
So in answer to the question posed by the title there is no good reason to focus on generational issues. The factors which make employers attractive are applicable across age as much as race and gender. Employees of any age must recognise that no-one is indispensable and that companies and their staff fail or prosper together; it is not sustainable for one to benefit at the expense of the other in the long term.