The Silent Generation Meets Generation Y: How to Manage a Four Generation Workforce with Panache – Part 4

Attracting and Retaining Generation YThe most pressing challenge for employees today is to figure out how to attract and retain Generation Y talent.  The task is daunting because this generation has such different attitudes and expectations than previous generations.  As Tom Casey pointed out previously, companies are still figuring out how to manage Gen Y employees and they had better figure out how to do it soon because this challenge can no longer be ignored. Figure 6 outlines some practical steps for attracting and retaining Gen Y employees.

Companies need to figure out what will attract Gen Ys to their organization; then the challenge will be to retain them.  Tom Casey pointed out that in the late 1990s stock options were a perk offered by many companies to attract employees.  Stocks options are of very little interest to Gen Ys because the vesting period   is generally at least three years – an eternity for a Gen Y.  The only reasonable way to figure out what this cohort wants is to engage these employees in helping to shape the company culture, work environment and compensation packages. One thing is certain, companies cannot hope to attract a new generation of employees without figuring out what drives their expectations.  Recruiting Gen Y requires a completely new set of tactics than were previously used with success.  Gen Y are born consumers and success in marketing a company (recruiting) means that organizations need to speak directly to Gen Y expectations.  

U.S. Army Recruiting Strategy for Generation Y

One employer that has had to change its recruiting strategy for Gen Y is the U.S. Army.  The Army has continuously changed its recruiting message over the years to appeal to each different generation.  The Army’s message to Traditionalists focused on authority figures and encouraged Traditionalists to join the ranks of authority.  An anti-authority message was marketed to the Boomer generation, while recruiting the Gen Xers focused on technology and collaboration while respecting uniqueness. The U.S. Army has continuously changed its marketing strategy to appeal to each successive generation of potential recruits.  Today’s Army, like other employers, has focused on the parents as a way to get their message to Gen Y.  The overall message to parents is “you’ve done a great job raising your children, let us help you develop them even more”.  The key to marketing to Generation Y is to focus on differentials.  The differentials include how to develop and communicate strategies that speak directly to Generation Y.  

Time as a Differential

The definition of time depends upon which cohort is defining the concept. Companies are aware that young workers are not going to work the types of hours that older generations have done.  It is a struggle for companies to even get Generation Y workers in the door, and companies are seeking ways to address the aspects of time.  It is widely acknowledged by most that it is not how much time someone spends at work, but rather what they accomplish in that time that is most important.  Continuous connectivity and the attitude that they can work anywhere at anytime, mean that Gen Y employees expect to work on their schedule, not yours.  Figure 7    The importance of managing the expectations of all cohorts in the workforce cannot be over emphasized.  Generation Y employees are going to require a lot of energy from other cohorts within their organization, but they should not get all the attention.  Table 1 illustrates some of the steps that organizations should take to manage the expectations of Generation X and Boomer employees in the workforce.   Table 1    

Generation X Boomers
Help them broaden their “fall back” options – increase their sense of self-reliance. Retire retirement-encourage them to stay
Don’t require moves that sever social connections Create a carillon of bell-shaped curve career options – including cyclic work
Give them choice and control over their career paths Offer them options for greater responsibility (as well as less)
Leverage their entrepreneurial instincts Allow them to “win”
Provide family-friendly flexibility Encourage giving back-through mentoring, community service, knowledge sharing.
Invest in technology-and provide the time required to incorporate it Provide opportunity (time and coaching) to experience new technology
Develop the leadership skills required to navigate the Boomer-Y love fest  
Seek out their views-and be prepared to hear they don’t like the way Boomers have run things!  


One Response

  1. Wow–what a great post! I find it interesting that the one organization that seems to be adopting new strategies for recruiting and retaining Gen Y is the oh-so-archaic military. One thing they have done well is show how different aspects of being in the military can match different personalities (im thinking of some navy commercials specifically).

    However the military is in a league of its own when it comes recruitment and retaining mainly because, well, it’s the military. What about other jobs that dont have such a high level of involvement/commitment?

    Id love to see how non-profits can develop strategies to recruit and retain Gen Y. My friends and I are starting an organization that will help non-profits retain Gen Y ( and I currently blog about some methods at Thoughts?

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