How Gen Y is dictating the workforce

A multitude of stories have recently published in a variety of publications about the state of the Gen Y worker. One particularly interesting article came from The Wall Street Journal titled, “More Firms Bow to Generation Y’s Demands.”

In the article, Leslie Kwoh discusses how employers say concessions are necessary to retain Gen Y workers. Many companies face retention issues with Gen Y, and they are discovering and trying to adapt to the needs and expectations of this younger workforce. According to estimates from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Gen Y will comprise more than 40% of the U.S. workforce by 2020. Moreover, companies need to keep their employee pipelines full as baby boomers enter retirement. So, companies need to adapt quickly to retain the best Gen Y talent and inspire their future leaders and revenue generators.

So what does Gen Y expect from their employer?

Many of the Gen Y expectations described in the article are identical to the expectations we uncovered in the Achievers Class of 2012 study, where we surveyed students about what they expect from their first employer. The pattern indicates that Gen Y is consistent with their expectations, so companies need to understand that the workplace is changing. Some of Gen Y’s preferences include faster career advancement, greater responsibility and more flexible work schedules.

In the Class of 2012 study, students identified “opportunities for career advancement” as their #1 motivator when deciding where to work. In Kwoh’s article, some innovative ways companies are addressing this is with special training and mentoring programs that speed development and career advancement. For example, one company designed a training program that virtually guarantees recent college graduates a promotion within one year, assuming performance is up to par. Another company launched an 18-month rotating mentoring program for Gen Y workers in hopes to retain them.

The article also discusses that Gen Y craves greater responsibility and needs to feel like they are making a contribution to the company. If they don’t, they are more likely to leave. In the Class of 2012 study, 51% of Gen Y students labeled “interesting and challenging work” as their #2 motivator when choosing where to work. Managers need to communicate how Gen Y’s work contributes to the big picture, and they can tie the employees’ efforts to the organization’s quarterly goals or objectives.

The article also discusses Gen Y’s crave for instant feedback. The Achievers Class of 2012 study found that 80% of students prefer to receive feedback in real-time. The age-old tradition of annual performance reviews is not effective with Gen Y. They crave immediate feedback so they know if they are on track with their career goals and if they are making a difference. Companies that do not incorporate these workplace practices will have difficulty retaining Gen Y workers.

How is your company adapting to the needs of Gen Y workers?

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