Saturday, 19 June 2010

How to attract and retain Generation Y and change HRM practices accordingly

Considering that all the members of a group have the same characteristics and features would definitely represent a blunder, remarkable differences can be in fact identified between the different generations. According to Sparrow and Cooper (2003) is reasonable thinking that the workforce of the future will have different “work values” compared to the current one.

“Generation Y” people or “Nexters”, as they are also known, are supposed to perform better whether they can be part of, and work in, a team (Penna and CIPD, 2008). Moreover, they are very interested in social network, preferably online but also offline. They want to have fun and make new friends. What motivate them the most is being offered opportunities for personal and professional growth and expanding their technical skills.

Yers are willing to work hard, prefer performing challenging tasks but want to enjoy the advantages provided by an appropriate work-life balance. An additional distinctive characteristic of these individuals is that they do not to excel in terms of loyalty to their employer. Yet, they aim at receiving benefits genuinely meeting their wants (Penna and CIPD, 2008).
Being absolutely confident in the use of technological devises and applications, these people are sorely engaged and interested in technology and hence in savvy working environments (Torrington et al, 2008).

Gen X
Generation X individuals actually share many features with Yers: enjoy to be challenged, aim at an appropriate working-life balance (Torrington et al., 2008), perform better working in a team, enjoy socialising in the workplace and seek personal growth and challenging job opportunities (Penna and CIPD, 2009).

They also aim at receiving a considerable degree of latitude and care more about outcomes than processes (Penna and CIPD, 2009).

Baby boomers
Baby boomers, as Yers and Xers, are more engaged when performing challenging works and are offered opportunities for personal development. Yet, people belonging to this generation want to enjoy the benefits offered by work-life balance practices. As Xers, they long for autonomy when making decisions and want to be personally valued by the people surrounding them.

Although this is the most loyal generation, they do not suggest their organisation to others as a good place to work at and are the less incline to go the extra mile.

In contrast to Yers and Xers, baby boomers are less interested in teamwork, but are those who value the most the social commitment of their employer (Penna and CIPD, 2008).

Similarly to Yers, Xers and baby boomers, veterans are attracted by jobs giving them the authority to make decisions. These individuals also definitely prefer that roles, responsibilities and hierarchies are clearly defined. As baby boomers and Xers, they want to be valued by the people they work with.
Veterans give a crucial importance to the psychological contract and are expected their loyalty to be reciprocated. Traditionalists, as veterans are also called, are expected that their ideas and suggestions are valued by their employer and are more passionate than any other generation about their job. Their loyalty is not influenced by their role and they would consider working beyond retirement whether possible (Penna and CIPD, 2009).


Albeit it is not completely clear whether differences amongst generations are based on age or life stage rather than on generational related characteristics, there is a wide agreement on the “self-evident differences” between generations (Parry and Urwin, 2009).
What characterise Yers the most compared to the other generations is their marked interest in cash, work-life balance, learning and development (Berry, 2008), their “can-do attitude when it comes to technology” and the need for constant feedback (Peacock, 2008).

Recruiting and retaining Yers
Enabling organizations to reach the individuals having the skills and capabilities they require, recruitment clearly has a paramount importance for every organisation (Parry and Urwin, 2009).

When recruitment activities are carried out, there are two aspects which in particular need to be carefully considered: the recruitment channels, in terms of identifying and having recourse to the means which are likely to most successfully enable a business to reach its target; and the creation of the employer branding based on the offer of a value proposition meeting the expectations of the pre-identified target. These factors are crucially important insofar as, whether properly managed, habitually enabling organisations to recruit and retain the right individuals (Parry and Urwin, 2009).

Nexters are attracted by technology and enjoy using electronic media (Matthews 2008) so that web 2.0 technology should definitely reveal to be useful to attract them (Birkinshaw, 2008). These people are familiar with video company information, online application forms, tests and brochures; social networks, online adverts and forums, and Second life hence definitely represent the most suitable channels to reach them (Birkinshaw, 2008). Second Life has in particular revealed to be very effective both for the recruitment of new staff and for offering career advancement to the existing employees. Individuals move within this virtual world acquiring knowledge of roles, of the related required competencies and of the new opportunities eventually arose within the organisation. By means of this application employees also have the possibility to talk to the organisation’s “ambassadors” who are able to provide them useful information.

The most effective offline channel to reach Yers has instead proved to be the word of mouth; they are very likely to recommend their employer to others, so that the employer branding image would reveal to be extremely beneficial to reach and attract them.

Generation Y people are much more willing to participate to assessment centres, not appreciated by baby boomers, and are sometimes over-cosseted by their parents so that employers should be ready to deal with the “helicopter effect”, that is, the constant presence of their parents calling them relatively often and even attending career fairs on their kids behalf (Matthews, 2008). Some organisations have even adapted their recruitment process accordingly inviting at recruitment fairs an additional member of the candidate’s family and including, in the information package sent to the appointed people, a letter specifically addressed to their parents (Matthews, 2008b).

In order to attract and retain Nexters a techno-savvy working environment, the access to online social networks, intranet applications and the like are hence necessary. To attain these objectives, organisations should also offer flexible working opportunities; these individuals in fact like to work anytime, anywhere and do prefer works based on tasks rather than on time constraints.

Specialist skills and personal development opportunities are also very attractive to them. Nexters are interested in career, coaching and training opportunities; they don’t live to work, but work to live so that work-life balance is definitely and firmly at the top of their priorities and interests.
The findings of some investigations have revealed that they are sensitive to CSR activities and that they are, consequently, more incline to work for an organisation implementing CSR initiatives. According to other studies, Yers interest for CSR is rather linked to their age and it actually increases with it, feature this much more typical of baby boomers.

Since many Nexters have experienced hardships during their studies and to indeed finance these, they are very sensitive to the financial component of their reward package (Asthana, 2008). They are essentially willing to work longer hours, but just to receive in exchange the appropriate  compensation, be it in money or time off.

A total reward approach is thus necessary to retain them and since individuals are different one another, a “cafeteria style” benefit programme would be the most appropriate to ensure that each of them will have the opportunity to choose the reward s/he values the most.


Can Nexters contribute to their organisation achievement of completive advantage?
Generation Y, as the other generations, enabling the employer to count on a diverse workforce can actually contribute to the workplace fresh thinking and new perspectives. Businesses achieving a good level of harmonisation between generations can benefit of high performance, creativity, innovation and, thus, competitive edge (Ozbilgin et al., 2008).

As pointed out by Ulrich and Smallwood (2002), what can really contribute competitive advantage to organisations is their human capital or “intangible assets.” Nexters with their distinctive ability and confidence in the use of new technologies, coupled with their interest in training and in personal and professional growth, can effectively contribute to their organisation achievement of competitive edge.

“Plorking” is an example of their new way to approach the work, that is, spending hours during the day on the computer working and playing as well; indeed this is not the way they avoid working, but just the way they approach working (Redmond, 2009).

On the other hand, the fact that these individuals are particularly demanding in term of reward and compensation and that they are willing to go the extra mile only in exchange for a money supplement can be negatively perceived by employers.

Figures provided by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) and a Work Audit carried out by CIPD (2009), revealed that the recession has had a bigger impact on employment for the under 25s (CIPD, 2010). Findings of an additional research (CIPD, 2010) gave evidence that work satisfaction, at its all-time low, recorded the most dramatic levels amongst Nexters, who expressed a far higher level of work dissatisfaction than the other generations.


How to adapt HRM practices
Organisations wanting to recruit and retain Yers clearly need to adapt their policies and practices to the wants of these demanding and techno-savvy individuals.

Training, for instance, need to be carried out using cutting edge technologies and considering that Yers need to receive constant feedback (Parry, E. and Urwin, P., 2009). A massive use of technology is also required in communications: blog, webcasts, podcasts, SharePoint and live forums will all fit and meet their preferences.

Line managers will be of paramount importance to the implementation of new strategies: they should strive for redesigning their day-to-day job in order this to provide to these individuals a stronger sense of purpose and fulfilment and greater accountability.

To meet Yers expectations retention and engagement strategies will need to balance the business needs with their increasing demand for work-life balance, flexibility and freedom. Effectually managing the emerged blurred line between socialising and work for the younger generations will also be a key driver of engagement.

Create reward policies meeting the older generations’ view of reward, considered as linked to the length of service, and the Yers aggressive attitude to performance- and merit-related pay will be particular challenging, but this definitely represents an important feet to achieve for employers.

To accommodate Yers needs, the most appropriate HRM strategy approach to pursue is the resource-based. This approach assumes that competitive edge can only be achieved by means of an inimitable bundle of “distinctive resources” (Barney, 1991) and establishing a link between “internal resources, strategy and firm performance” (Boxal, 1996). These resources must be:

·         Valuable, that is, have the required competencies;

·         Rare, in terms of flexibility and adaptability;

·         Inimitable, in order to avert competitors to understand the reasons for success;

·         Non-substitutable, that is, transferable to different organizational functions in the long-run (Wright et al., 1994).

The People and Performance Model developed by the Bath University can be deemed as the most suitable model enabling employers to redress organisations’ strategies in order to meet Yers needs and expectations and retain this generation’s employees. This model is in fact based on the most appropriate bundle and supported by the AMO (abilities, motivation and opportunity) approach (Torrington et al., 2008). This HRM model also properly emphasizes the importance of line mangers during the implementation phase of new strategies.

Longo, R., (2010), How to attract and retain Gen Y and change HRM policies accordingly, HR Professionals, Milan [online].
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