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Wednesday, July 14, 2010

How to Recruit, Hire, and Retain the Best of Generation Y: 10 Workplace Issues Most Important to Gen Y

Experts have been warning employers for years about the impending brain drain as baby boom workers -- the heart and soul of many organizations over the last three decades -- leave corporate America in droves for retirements and re-careering options.

But with the gloom associated with the baby boomers' exit, comes the hope of a new generation of workers. Roughly the same size as the boomers, Generation Y is the foundation for the next three decades of employment and leadership.

So, what's the problem? It lies with the attitudes that Generation Y has to employment and work. Generation Y has been the most pampered and indulged generation. Growing up with the Internet and various technological gadgets, this generation is also the most tech-savvy and wired (or perhaps wirelessly connected) cohort. Their views of life and work are different from any others -- and if employers want to recruit and retain these people, strategies and policies and procedures will have to change.

There is no question that a paradigm shift is occurring in recruitment and retention -- with the most successful organizations already implementing changes to cater to this new generation of workers.

Besides obvious things such as using social-networking sites to recruit employees and offering a corporate career site that is interactive and engaging (like the Deloitte career site that offers grads videos on life at Deloitte), what else can employers do to help ensure that they will be able to recruit, hire, and retain Generation Y workers?

Here is a list of the 10 workplace issues most important to Gen Y job-seekers and workers:

1. Nurturing corporate culture. Gen Ys view having strong friendships with co-workers and bosses as extremely important to them. There is much anecdotal support of workers staying longer in jobs simply because they loved the people they worked with -- and did not want to leave them. Management styles must be Theory Y for Gen Y. Consider too a formal or informal organization-wide mentoring program.

2. Job flexibility. Gen Ys not only want flexible hours and schedules, but remote work options because of their perception of the never-ending intersection of work and life. They see themselves doing work everywhere -- except in a cubicle. Jobs must be designed to accommodate these workers personal lives -- not the other way around.

3. Challenging work. Gen Ys, more than any previous college grads, are graduating college with a dynamic mix of academic and work experiences that have them positioned to contribute from day one. They are not interested in "grunt" jobs, or jobs in which they have to "pay their dues;" they seek challenging work from the start.

4. Professional and personal growth opportunities. Gen Ys value lifelong learning. They also tend to get bored easily and seek out new things. They want employers that offer tuition reimbursement, sabbaticals, and other growth opportunities.

5. Volunteering options. Gen Ys have been involved in service most of their lives and have a true commitment to bettering the world around them. Employers should develop organizational volunteering programs and options that allow workers to continue these efforts. Having an organizational culture that supports these values is essential.

6. Competitive salaries. Gen Ys -- especially younger ones fresh out of college -- have more debt (both student loans and credit cards) than any previous generation, and they demand a salary that not only recognizes their contributions, but also helps them pay down the debt. Some employers even have programs in place to help these workers pay off student loans.

7. Advancement opportunities. While Gen Ys are certainly not the most loyal bunch (but don't blame them -- blame those employers that downsized their parents), they do seek out employers that have a plan for their success. Employers should examine and create new ladders to guide younger workers through a steady progression in the organization.

8. Recognition programs. Gen Ys were raised in a bubble of constant praise and recognition from their families, and so this kind of constant reinforcement and recognition is something they expect. But please, no Office Space "flair" programs; instead, implement authentic work recognition programs.

9. Business casual. Gen Ys, as a whole, have more tattoos and piercings than any previous worker cohort -- and that personal style also applies to how they dress and how they want to dress for work. While they can look great in business suits, many prefer a work environment in which they can wear comfortable clothing that expresses their individuality.

10. Intrapreneurship programs. Study after study show that Gen Ys have an extremely strong entrepreneurial focus -- with many planning to start their own businesses (partly so that they can control their own fate). Employers can retain workers longer -- while leveraging that entrepreneurial sprit -- by developing incubator and intrapreneurship programs and opportunities.

Final Thoughts

Just as the work that is completed changes to meet the times, so, too, must the way we perform the work -- and Generation Y workers are some of the most independent-minded and tech-savvy workers employers have seen. Changing the way you do business -- and the way you manage, recognize, and reward your employees (including the mix of benefits and perks you offer) -- is essential not only to your success in recruiting and retaining Generation Y workers, but to the organization's future success as well.

by Randall S. Hansen, Ph.D.

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