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Are you embracing the unique insights generation Y and Z bring to your business?

The classification, and broad brush-stroke definitions of generations is a funny thing - sweeping generalisations are never perfect - but often they do resonate. And they matter - because recruiting new grad and intern employees is made more complex by businesses who fail to identify and capitalise on the differences between these prospective employees, and their more established team members.

The pace of change in technology, society, global politics and economics, means that generations in this sense are becoming shorter, with far fewer common experiences and interests shared between those whose birth years are only maybe fifteen years apart. Understanding the unique contribution employees of different age groups and experiences can bring is key to recruiting a diverse and high performing team, in any sphere of work.


The speed of generational shift

We all agree that society is changing at pace, and 2015 will see a continuing generational shift - the baby boomers are retiring, Gen X are solid in their senior roles, the last of Generation Y reaches the workforce, and those falling into Generation Z start to seek out internships and take their first tentative steps into the world of work.

Generation Y (also known as Millennials), are those born between 1980 and around 1995, and the leading edge of this generation - by now 35 years of age - are already in influential leadership roles, in which they are shaping the world of work for us all. Their road into the workplace has not been smooth, as businesses were frequently slow to react to their different needs and interests - but this millennial generation are certainly making a mark now.

Generation Z, on the other hand, who are those aged today from around twenty years old or younger, are only just starting to hit the workforce and make their presence felt - those making recruiting decisions now will be removed from them by a generation or even two; and they should already be making efforts to understand the needs, preferences and potential impact of this new wave of workers.


Lessons from recruiting Generation Y

Much research has been done into what Generation Y really want from work - and the findings are crucial in businesses being able to recruit, retain and engage employees of this age group.

For example, consultants PWC surveyed 40000 millennial employees, and discovered that they list social needs as more important to their satisfaction at work than pure financial reward - making team cohesion, supervisor support and appreciation, and flexibility the key ways to attract these Gen Y employees to your business.

In many ways this is not surprising - this generation have grown up through times of political, environmental and economic turbulence, and this has influenced many profoundly. The concept of a 'job for life' is alien to millennials, who seek variety, challenge and experience in the moment, looking for personal development and opportunity for improvement.


What Generation Y bring your business

The differences in attitude and experience in Generation Y make it necessary for businesses to rethink their methods in recruiting and retaining them; but also mean that employees of this generation give something unique to the business in return. Deloitte, as far back as 2010, have been outspoken in illustrating the benefits that millennial employees can bring to a business - describing Generation Y as 'The Powerhouse of the Global Economy'.

Generation Y

Gen Y, as described by Deloitte, are confident at times of high anxiety, value opportunity over job security, want - and have received - more responsibility earlier, and trust superiors, and want to work with them.

The outcome of this for a business, is a generation of employees who have seen an economic roller coaster and learned to manage change, and seize the opportunity from the crisis. A generation who do not mourn the loss of a job for life, but set out to develop themselves, continually learn and improve, and make themselves as ready as possible for different opportunities in the future. A generation who have risen quickly through the ranks of ever leaner companies, or indeed, set out on their own to found start-ups; and yet wish to work with their superiors to learn, to develop, and to help push the boundaries of what can be achieved. An attractive combination for businesses in any sector.


And what about Generation Z?

Whilst, naturally, research on Generation Z is light on the ground, as the first of this generation come of age, indications are that there will be yet more change in priorities, and to the unique viewpoint that a Gen Z graduate or intern can bring to a business.

There will surely be a better tag as time goes on for this generation - with 'Dotcom Kids' one proposal, to reflect the fact that this generation are the first true 'digital natives', having never known a world without internet. This significant technological shift makes Gen Z massively comfortable with technology, more inclined to learn through visual stimulus, and happy to 'try and see' rather than 'sit and listen' - but ironically, might well mean that their preference shifts away from overuse of email communication, as there is simply no novelty in this method.

Whatever the Generation Z grow up to be, the learning for employers from Generation Y should be that by listening and reacting to the things that are important for this new generation as they make their presence felt in the workplace, businesses will be rewarded by the unique insights and view point that a new generation brings.

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