Hiring Gen Y (Step 2): Know What Appeals to Millennials

by Traci K and BrightMove Staffing Software and Recruiting Software

The reputation of Generation Y is that of entitled, impatient, independent, materialistic, social-oriented techies.  They are unlike any generation before them and they offer talents and skill sets unlike their predecessors.  Employers are beginning to recognize the unavoidable need for the presence of these Millennials in the workforce and on their staff.  The problem is, even in light of the economy and an underwhelming number of open positions, this generation of workers is not grabbing at any open opportunity.  If they don’t find what suits them, they are happy to move back in with mom and dad until something better comes along.  With that in mind, when a need for these Gen Yers presents itself, what do organizations need to know about appealing to young professionals?

Let’s look at some traits of Generation Y first and then discuss how your organization can highlight certain areas and play up strengths that may make you more attractive to younger applicants.  In an article called Ten Things Every Recruiting Professional Should Know About Millennials, Thomas Torresson, writer for The Recruiters Lounge, lists ten key traits:

  1. Millennials are sociable and team-oriented. They enjoy working in teams and like being friends with coworkers. They expect diversity in the workplace and seek a fair and evenhanded management. If you assign goals to their work teams and then evaluate them as a group they can produce amazing results. You might even consider the benefits of designing workplaces to accommodate idea sharing, teamwork and social interaction among coworkers.
  2. Millennials are connected. More than any previous generation the computer, cell phones and electronics connect them, and they use’em. They use connectedness to share and interact with friends, with their network, AND to do business. This is a plus to employers who understand it. When Millennials have a challenge they often go out to their group in developing the solution, this is not a distraction, but is normal to them in getting work done. A quick text to a co-worker may be faster than a phone call or a desk visit. Previous generations had to struggle getting timely information – Millennials get it right now – and move on with their day.
  3. They work hard, play hard. They have always filled their lives with multiple activities – playing sports, helping causes and communities, being active with friends and family. They work hard and are fully engaged in their work, but they get work done during the workday and try to keep a life-work balance. They seek employers who value this balance and who provide shared values, company events and hierarchies that support these priorities.
  4. They are confident. Millennials have a confidence that has come from positive reinforcement all their lives. They know they can do the work, why couldn’t they. If they need to find out something they go to their network of friends, coworkers, managers, even parents and get help knowing that together they can figure it all out. They know they can do the work, they expect to work hard, but they also expect to be rewarded and seek employers who share those values.
  5. They have a voice. Millennials grew up being told they were special, having a voice in events that affect them, and expecting to be heard. Unlike previous generations that neatly fit into the existing status quo they will express their opinion and are unapologetic about it. Getting and giving feedback is a very good thing. The more often the better. Millennials react very positively to a steady flow of “how ya doing” dialog and have plenty to offer in return.
  6. They do technology. With all the tools available to them – Facebook, MySpace, iPods, PDAs, phones, computers, etc., Millennials are tech oriented and seriously networked. They stay in touch daily, even hourly, connecting with friends, co-workers, classmates, and other professionals, even parents (who still play a big part of their lives). While this may seem a distraction to older workers Millennials draw on their network and technology in everyday tasks and activities seeing it as an extension of who they are. If you want to be innovative consider setting up a reverse mentoring program whereby Millennials tutor older workers to use technology.
  7. They multi-task. The phone, multiple text messaging, a meeting, emails, an ipod and maybe a couple of other activities – all at once. These are multi-taskers like you can’t believe. They are used to it. Like it. And they get their work done by 5 and go home, or on to other activities. It’s how they work. If it ever slows down they will suffer acute boredom. Give them short term and long term goals, a team to interact with and (chuckle) get out of the way.
  8. They are loyal. To family and friends, to personal interests, to jobs that don’t bore and are rewarding. Keeping them engaged and challenged is the key to retaining them for very long. The things they look for in choosing an employer – fairness, challenging work, feedback and open dialog, work teams, live-work culture, community citizenship – are also the things that will keep them from straying. Provide those values and Millennials are productive happy workers. Try to shoehorn them into one of the more dictatorial regimes and they will use their connectedness, flood the market with resumes and be gone before you can figure out where to send the 401k forms.
  9. They’re involved. A high rate of Millennials volunteer their time on community projects. They have grown up thinking about the greater good and now as adults they act on it. They expect companies to have community involvement and to be involved themselves. Further, they expect companies to operate in ways that create a sustainable environment.
  10. They want to develop their careers. Millennials aren’t typically impressed with overblown mission statements – they expect a workplace that is challenging, fun, creative and rewarding both financially and career-wise. They want assignments on projects they can learn from. They want leadership to be genuine and caring, yet demanding and mentoring. Successful managers will offer a career path with growth opportunities and give lots of feedback as they progress. They have been told they are special, they believe it, and given the opportunity they will prove it’s true.

How can you, as an employer, appeal to Generation Y based on these traits?

Millennials are sociable and team-oriented.

Many positions do not allow for a lot of communication between employees and make it hard for employers to accommodate the need to socialize.  Be sure for younger employees in these roles, efforts are made to increase interaction.  Whether through daily update meetings, work lunches, or team building exercises, let applicants know that there will be opportunities for them to interact with colleagues and work with other team members, even if the exact parameters of their position do not necessitate it.

Millennials are connected.

Highlight the use of social media as it plays a part in your organization.  Create a Facebook page if you don’t already have one for your company.  Show young candidates that you understand what it means to network and utilize these types of available resources.

They work hard, play hard.

Be sure to communicate the importance your organization places on work-life balance – i.e. any related benefits, employee wellness initiatives, etc., that play an important role with life outside of work.  Benefitting their need to stay connected as well, any company sponsored events outside of work are also a plus.  Start a club or company sports team that allows the option to spend time with and relate to coworkers beyond the 9 to 5.

They are confident.

Talk to younger candidates about the level of independence and importance their position will play in the grand scheme of the company.  No matter how menial, they need to know that their place in the organization is of value and what good things will come if they meet expectations.

They have a voice.

Spend time discussing the performance review process and employee development initiatives.  Team meetings and round table discussions that they may be a part of would also be examples of job components that would appeal to Millennials.  They want to know that their opinions will be heard and as well, they want feedback on how they are doing and the opportunity to improve upon areas identified for growth.

They do technology.

An organization that is current on the latest technology is obviously going to be of interest to Gen Yers.  They have grown up with technology that has advanced at hyper-speed their entire lives.  A company that doesn’t recognize the technological advantages available to them, let alone actively utilize them, is not going to be of interest to a Millennial.

They multi-task.

Highlight the amount of variety in any position.  Millennials will take note of jobs that are not the same day-to-day and offer opportunities to use any number of their skills.

They are loyal.

This is an amalgamation of the other traits.  If you show that you care about work-life balance and the community; if you can offer them a position that will utilize technology and offer variety; if you can show that your company will reward them for their efforts; in short, if you can prove that you will be a loyal company and offer what you say you will offer to them, they will want to work for you and remain loyal to you.

They’re involved.

If you aren’t involved in the community yet…get involved.  If you haven’t pushed any green initiatives…now is the time.  Showcase what you do already to Gen Y applicants, and if you aren’t currently doing anything, think of a few inexpensive changes you can make to become more appealing.  Offer time off for volunteer work at charities aligned with your organization.  Make some changes in the workplace that show you care about the environment.

They want to develop their careers.

Talk about advancement opportunities and career paths.  Make sure Millennials are well aware that they have the ability to move up within your organization or potentially, what opportunities they might have to become specialized in their field.

Becoming a company that a Millennial wants to work for may take a little effort, but most of the ideas listed above are initiatives that will benefit everyone, not just the youth you are trying to attract.  Discussing these key points with Gen Y applicants will hopefully get them excited about the position you have to offer.  In order to get the chance to give your schpeel in person, writing a job advertisement to announce your opening is necessary.  The next part of this series, Step Three – Writing a Job Posting Aimed at Gen Yers, will touch on learning to communicate the highlights of your organization on the forefront, enticing Millennials to apply in the first place.

Traci K. is an HR Professional and freelance writer based in the Midwest, specializing in recruitment and immigration.  When she’s not improving unemployment, she keeps busy with her husband and four children.

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