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How can employers engage with Generation Y talent?

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How can employers engage with and retain talent from Generation Y in this fiercely competitive market? Mike Hill explains what employers need to do to attract and motivate the best of Generation Y.

Recruiting graduates after the recession

Attracting the best graduate for the job can be tough, particularly at a time when unemployment is high, competition for jobs is fierce, and effective selection moves up the recruitment agenda.

The recession has had a major impact on the job hunting attitudes of graduates with widespread pessimism humbling the entitlement mentality of Generation Y. The reality, however, is that there are jobs out there. We experienced a 50% year-on-year increase in advertising from recruiters in the first quarter of 2010 and the climate is looking much brighter.

So, how do you engage with Gen Y graduates, what are they looking for and how can you tempt the best talent into your business?

Generation Y - the tech savvy generation

Reared with instant access to a wealth of information, armed with BlackBerrys, laptops and other gadgets, Gen Y is plugged in 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. This has set the stage for immediate incentives, completing everything faster and better, so that they can achieve and be rewarded swiftly.

Ambitious and goal orientated, Gen Y want to be given responsibility and the chance to learn management skills fairly early on in their career. The Real Prospects 2011 survey supports this. The 14,500 graduates we surveyed said that interesting roles, good training and career progression opportunities often outweighed salary when it came to what made their current employer so appealing.

When it comes to the recruitment process this ‘most-coached’ generation responds well to immediate and continuous feedback. Our research shows that organisations that maintain a high level of communication throughout the application process attract and retain the best graduate talent.

Gen Y also responds well to peer recommendation. The most successful recruiters recognise this, using recent alumni, fresh into their careers, to describe what life will be like in the trenches. Millennials have a strong social conscience and value flexibility so messages about corporate responsibility and workplace lifestyle should also be conveyed.

Engage with Gen Y through social media

Given the online habits of Gen Y, it's no surprise that the HR community is active in social media. While seemingly a perfect means for engaging this group, our advice is to choose your tools wisely. Some media, such as LinkedIn, have direct mechanisms for employers to engage with job seekers, but the use of Twitter and Facebook is more challenging as they present difficulties in reconciling social and business networking.

Gen Y expects to use social networking for work as well as play so employers must manage their online reputations, conveying the culture and personality of the organisation so that potential hires can develop a sense of what it might be like to work there.

Increased access to information is relevant on both sides of the recruitment relationship. Both parties are able to undertake more research than ever before and candidates need to be mindful of their own online reputations.

According to recent research more than half of all employers admit to researching potential candidates on social networks such as Facebook. Equally employers need to be prepared for Gen Y who, having done their homework, are knowledgeable and enthusiastic, and, even during an uncertain climate, are reluctant to settle for just ‘any job’.

The best Gen Y talent - proactive & independent

Identifying the most suitable candidates requires an open mind. Gen Y are notoriously casual in both their appearance and demeanour. It's important that recruiters see past their informality and recognise that each applicant has a unique combination of knowledge, skills, enthusiasm and commitment that makes them well suited or not to the role.

Tech-savvy Gen Y is comfortable with computers and they should have examples of work or independent projects on hand when you interview them. This can be particularly useful as many Gen Yers can be lacking in professional references. Ask to see a relevant portfolio from the people you interview. If you are looking for a marketing executive, for example, make sure you ask candidates to show you some previous copy samples or ask them to generate some ideas to assess what skills they have or don’t have.

Many Gen Y graduates won’t have had a chance to build up masses of experience, but you can make sure they were proactive with their free time. They may have had a year off, but this doesn’t mean they have wasted it - dig around and find out what skills they developed to get a feel for how they may transfer into your company. Make sure you find someone who displays the best traits of Gen Y talent, likes to keep busy and who can achieve goals independently.

When it comes to letting a Gen Y candidate know they have been unsuccessful with an application, best practice is paramount. Even if they are not right for the job you must give feedback and let them know that you will keep their application on file should a suitable vacancy arise. Gen Y make up approximately 20% of the of the current UK workforce. They like to talk through their blogs and online networks and are massively influenced by their peers. Treat them badly and you risk damaging your brand.

Motivating Generation Y employees

Gen Y employees grew up in a consumer economy and see themselves as customers, which means they expect to in?uence the terms and conditions of their jobs. They like to get things done through collaboration and open communication, responding to ‘access all areas’ and constant feedback in a fun environment. They look for immediate and personalised responses and are quickly turned off if an organisation is not meeting expectations. To aid retention be sure to be clear and honest about what a role entails as well as its prospects.

Getting ahead in the world of work is also of key importance to Gen Y. However, it's not necessarily about climbing the career ladder when they refer to career progression. Being Challenged and feeling that their work is meaningful is of more importance.

Today’s graduates are hungry, willing and more prepared than ever to ensure they land a job with you. Whether or not you have traditionally recruited graduates, the Benefits of doing so are undeniable. They are always going to be a valuable resource and there has never been a better time to flow some of the best young talent into your business.

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