The Loop

Attract and Retain: What Does “Gen Next” Want?

Filed under: Attraction & Retention

It's a new era for job seekers. A generation of college graduates has gone out into a jobless world and pieced together a living. Some delivered pizza or worked retail. Others moved back in with their parents and interned in their fields for virtually nothing. Some budding entrepreneurs met whatever needs were available in their local market: nannies, lawn service, car detailing. Even young adults fortunate to have found meaningful employment have experienced hard lessons at a young age: layoffs, salary freezes and reductions, high cost-sharing benefits, career stalls, lateral promotions,
and failure to advance. Is it any wonder that the new millennium generation wants something more?

Overall, they are a cynical bunch, but they are hungry. They are educated; even overeducated. They are tired of menial jobs and want a career they can sink their teeth into. But loyalty? Forget it. You can hire the best if you've got something they want. You can retain younger employees as long as you keep them engaged. Mistreat them, don't promote them, don't train them or provide new opportunities ... and they're happy to go back to delivering pizza. They've done it before, they can do it again, and of course they can, seeing how many have had to delay marriage, mortgage, and children.

For companies, it's a double-edged sword. Those young adult traits of independence, progressive thinking, and willingness to take on new responsibilities come with a high price tag: Fair treatment, transparency, and work/life balance with the emphasis on 'life'. So how do employers respond to a no-nonsense generation that's not afraid to work – or walk away from it?

The fact is, we need Gen Next. We need our current crop of twenty-somethings to be experienced and knowledgeable thirty-somethings in ten years to replace the rapid succession of retiring baby boomers. But attracting and retaining the cream of the Gen Next crop is tricky business. The following are a handful of trends that can help you attract and retain the best and brightest among today's young adults.

Teach. Assign a mentor to each new hire, because this generation is used to being taught. Keep in mind that these young adults may require more instruction and feedback than previous generations. They welcome new training opportunities, so don't let them go stale.

Bend. Between the internet and the global economy, the world is open for business 24 hours a day. Depending on your particular market, it may be time to shake the notion of 9:00 to 5:00. If you seek innovation and employees who "think outside the box," demonstrate the same through your company's corporate culture. Flextime and flexplace can help attract new talent, while being rigidly traditional can seem unreasonable and impractical in this day and age.

Invest. The next generation expects workplace technology and communication mediums to keep pace with their ever-growing skill set. Stay current with next-level technology, and reimburse cell phone and internet expenses if they work offsite.

Augment. Perhaps you can't compete on salary, but workers appreciate a well-stocked kitchen of complimentary and healthy snacks; even cater lunch a couple of days a week.

Be Fair. The internet has become the great socio-economic equalizer. Secrets are shared, accounts hacked, private information leaked.
This has led to an environment of transparency, both in government and in business. Do nothing you would be ashamed of, including hiring, promoting, and compensation practices. Gen Next prospects can find out what it's like to work at your company before accepting a job offer.
They may even learn their predecessor's salary. This "Occupy" generation is all about fair play, so rein in the politics, favoritism, nepotism, and even the playing field. If you want employees to stay, treat them well and pay them what they are worth to you,
because that's what their salary will indicate.

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