How to engage Gen Y talent

Attracting, retaining and engaging Gen Y is about more than just flexible work arrangements. It’s about fostering innovation and collaboration.
Charlie Caruso


written on August 8, 2014

Attracting, retaining and engaging Gen Y is about more than just flexible work arrangements. It’s about fostering innovation and collaboration.

In case you haven’t noticed, we’re kind of in the middle of a business revolution. The digital economy has turned tried-and-tested business models upside down, disrupting all industries and all sectors in an unprecedented fashion.

The optimism and disruptive thinking of the younger generation has begun to infiltrate the wider business community, increasing the pace of change.

Around the world, organisations have been forced to reflect on their out-dated perceptions and practices. The talent of today isn’t interested in old and out-dated; it’s after new, innovative and exciting. Safe to say, if you’re not agile, you’re archaic.

Never has the shift in the way we do business been more obvious and significant than in the way we approach staff and value human resources. Employers who had previously viewed HR as a necessary inconvenience have come to realise the benefit of increased productivity and profits that stem from employee contentment.

By treating staff as the valuable asset they are, progressive organisations are happy to tailor their benefits to suit the needs and wants of their workforce, resulting in optimum motivation for the retention and engagement of talented individuals.

Encouraging innovation

The benefit of being ‘talented’, regardless of age, is that you know you’re valuable and have options. A stale organisation will attract and retain stale staff – it’s that simple.

Encouraging ‘intrapreneurship’ and innovation in your business isn’t just an important element for attracting talented Gen Y. It’s fundamental to growing and improving your business holistically.

Those organisations committed to making changes to improve their efficiency, profitability and, ultimately, the viability of their business will find that talented Gen Y will be drawn to them, making the process of having to capture their attention much easier.

Throughout the book Understanding Y, my co-authors and I discuss the many environmental factors that allow Gen Y to thrive in the workplace. There is no doubt that organisations with strong collaborative cultures are better able to leverage the talent of ‘Millennials’.

Introducing mentorship programs where older generations can share their experience and personal knowledge with a youthful cohort eager to learn, as well as introducing activity-based working environments, are just some examples of how organisations are fostering collaboration.

Yet, for a truly collaborative culture to exist, a high level of trust and mutual respect, free from negative stereotypes, is essential. As stated by Ryan Gibson, co-author of Understanding Y and founder of leading Gen Y blog, older generations, particularly those in leadership positions, don’t typically trust Gen Y.

Gen Ys are projected to have six to eight different careers during their professional lives, but future-orientated organisations aim to capitalise on the time they have with Gen Y – not simply highlight and complain about the negatives.

Industry collaboration

It is my personal opinion that there is potential for future-orientated organisations to take the concept of ‘collaboration’ to a new and exciting level with respect to the retention of Gen Y talent.

I believe that potential lies in creating alliances with other non-competitive organisations where staff can simply be transferred to a sister company when they feel that inevitable ‘itch’. That way, instead of organisations losing talented staff to competitors, they are able to retain them in their ‘network’ and hopefully benefit from a constant swap mart of talented individuals – a talent trade.

Six simple secrets for retaining and engaging talented Gen Ys:

  • Attracting and retaining talented staff is less about them and more about you. It pays to reflect on ‘you’ before you start looking for ‘them’.
  • Research organisations that are successfully retaining talented Gen Y and attempt to replicate it.
  • Gen Y is attracted to organisations that foster innovation and encourage collaboration.
  • Talk to your staff. Find out what they want and figure out a way to give it to them in a mutually beneficial way.
  • If talented Millennials are leaving, understand why and make the necessary changes to stop it.
  • Form alliances with complementary organisations that will better enable you to retain talent in your ‘network’.

Charlie Caruso is the editor and co-author of Understanding Y, written with some of the world’s leading change agents, generational experts and thought leaders. The book is available in the AHRI bookshop.

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