Employers must adapt to meet the needs of Generation Y, or risk losing serious talent

Career Development International

ISSN: 1362-0436

Article publication date: 1 September 2003

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(2003), "Employers must adapt to meet the needs of Generation Y, or risk losing serious talent", Career Development International, Vol. 8 No. 5. https://doi.org/10.1108/cdi.2003.13708eab.004

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2003, MCB UP Limited


Employers must adapt to meet the needs of Generation Y, or risk losing serious talent

Employers must adapt to meet the needs of Generation Y, or risk losing serious talent

Attracting and retaining the best talent among graduates could present employers with major challenges over the next few years, if they are not prepared to change and adapt their human-resource policies, according to a survey by head-hunter Kendall Tarrant Worldwide.

"The young ones" looks at the recruitment and retention of people born after 1978, the Generation Y group, whose motivations and triggers differ significantly from those of their predecessors from either Generation X or the baby-boomer generation. Looking specifically at the advertising industry, the survey highlights issues relevant to all employers looking to maintain a motivated and committed workforce.

Key findings include:

  • What Generation Y wants may ultimately not be that different from the desires of its predecessors, but the key difference is that Generation Y is not afraid to ask for it now.

  • Generation Y members want greater fluidity in their professional careers. Employers will therefore benefit from highlighting the transferable skills that working in their profession will instil. Employers need to consider recruiting from other professions, to broaden their potential talent pool.

  • Generation Y graduates are likely to be more loyal to their lifestyle than their job, further emphasising the need for employers to adopt a more flexible approach to recruitment and retention.

  • Generation Y expects transparent, committed, adult-to-adult relationships and is prepared to make cut-and-dried decisions. Generation Y employees will demand early responsibility, for which employers will need to ensure accountability.

  • Faced with employees who want everything, and want it now, employers need to be wary of overselling at the graduate entry point. They need to be clear that a tough apprenticeship is to be expected, but should demonstrate that people accepting this are rewarded and promoted. They need to showcase examples of successful individuals at this level, to motivate others.

  • Employers need to consider adapting traditional structures and hierarchies to accommodate individual skills. This may lead to more hybridized roles emerging, that play to an individual's skills and to his or her natural talents. Success looks different to this generation and employers may need to think about doing away with traditional job titles, which may constrict personal growth.

Hannah Brown, Kendall Tarrant Worldwide managing director, said: "We have noticed that, over the past three years, graduates have been expressing different attitudes from those of their predecessors and our findings confirm this. The challenge for employers is to adopt a transparent, flexible and personalized approach that is honest about the challenges of a job, while clearly demonstrating the rewards and potential for progression."

Ros King, managing director of advertising agency J. Walter Thompson, said: "I have seen a change in attitudes over the last few years. For example, during interviews, younger candidates show a much greater willingness to ask probing questions. They are much more up front about achieving a good work-life balance. We have had to make sure that our working practices have adapted to meet changing expectations. The lesson for UK plc is that we have to think about people in the round and be smarter about career development."

Andrew McGuinness, chief executive of advertising agency TBWA, commented: "Increasingly, the very best graduates are extremely direct about what they want from our organization – and so they should be! Gone are the days when the best, most talented people in the market were happy to go cap in hand to employers. Now they have far greater self-confidence. Employers have always been very clear about what they want from graduates, and graduates are now equally clear what they want from us."