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Generation Y requires a ‘viral’ approach to recruitment

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Young Generation

Diverse, tech-savvy and socially aware, the current generation of school leavers and graduates present a recruitment challenge for employers, explains Colin Tenwick.


The new generation of school leavers is causing recruiters headaches when it comes to attracting, engaging and retaining promising employees. The Stepstone Total Talent Report 2008, which surveyed global business leaders on talent and recruitment issues, suggests that organisations could be unprepared for the recruitment challenges posed by this age group.

The school leavers and recent graduates entering the workforce today – also known as ‘generation Y’ – are the first true ‘internet generation’. This generation is racially and ethnically diverse. Their exposure to online media throughout their formative years mean they gather and act on information in a very different way to their parents or older siblings.

Most importantly, they act on recommendations from their peers, shared via online social networks such as MySpace or Facebook, rather than gleaning information from conventional newspapers or broadcast media.

“In recruitment terms, this means that the traditional printed job advertisement can’t be guaranteed to reach this demographic. The way they look for a job is ultimately very different.”

In recruitment terms, this means that the traditional printed job advertisement can’t be guaranteed to reach this demographic. The way they look for a job is ultimately very different, long gone are the days of graduate milk rounds.

Employers therefore need to adopt a more ‘viral’ approach – developing online videos and other materials that young people will want to send on to their friends. Ernst & Young is a good example of a company tapping into this social media trend. In 2006, the company launched a corporate page on Facebook and the site now boasts more than 10,000 members, raising awareness of the brand amongst students and potential job candidates.

Recruiters are also increasingly conscious of the importance generation Y attaches to organisations’ ethical standing. Not only does this age group expect prospective employers to offer competitive salaries and benefits, they also need to be convinced that the company’s ethics and beliefs match their own.

Whilst only 15% of the executives polled for the StepStone Total Talent Report felt that industry and company image was hindering its efforts to hire top candidates, professionals believe this proportion will grow significantly as generation Y moves through the workforce. As a result, demonstrating corporate social responsibility (CSR) credentials will become a vital element of the employer brand.

These two phenomena actually present a solution: many large employers now have their own pages on Facebook and their ilk, with many of these – such as BT’s page – developed with CSR very much in mind. Other employers, particularly in the scientific research fields, are using social sites as ‘hubs’ for sharing research papers with groups of people who it knows will read them avidly.

Both approaches have the same objective: building the employer brand amongst this hard-to-reach age group, by making use of their determinedly ‘viral’ nature. This ability to appeal to the tech-savvy, young graduate of today is becoming increasingly used as a competitive weapon in the marketplace.

“Generation Y is entering the workforce with higher expectations of what employers promise, not just in terms of career development, but also in their ethics and values.”

Organisations can no longer expect to follow a ‘one size fits all’ approach to recruitment and simply recruit talented people on the basis of salary and benefits alone.

Generation Y is entering the workforce with higher expectations of what employers promise, not just in terms of career development, but also in their ethics and values. The generation Y candidate expects to hear about the company’s community programmes or initiatives on how to reduce their carbon footprint, before considering a job offer. Having grown up in a connected world means they’ll think nothing of using the web to help them decide how their career will progress.

This presents a very different dynamic, and organisations need to come to terms with what it will take to attract and develop these people. Both recruitment and talent management needs to be adapted to ensure they address the changing needs of its future leaders.


Colin Tenwick is CEO of StepStone.

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