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The Young and The Restless

Young workers seek jobs with flexibility and career growth.

January 30, 2004
Related Topics: Candidate Sourcing, Staffing Management

For many young workers, what makes a job hot is more about flexibility and freedom than ladder-climbing and cold cash. Members of so-called Generation Y, many of whom are now 16 to 24 years old, have very different ideas than their parents about what they want to do in the workplace. "For many young people, the goal is to find jobs that fit into an overall career plan," says Eric Chester, author ofEmploying Generation Why: Understanding, Managing and Motivating Your New Workforce and president and founder of Generation Why Inc., a Denver market analysis and consulting firm. "They view flexibility as an extremely important issue, and they want to pursue work that leads to their dream lifestyle."

    And while the exact definition of that lifestyle varies with each individual, waving money in the faces of Generation Y as a hiring tool is often a futile effort. They want the money, but on their own terms: good hours, a good work climate and a job that offers opportunities to learn and grow, Chester says.

    The basis for this philosophy is a realization that members of Generation Y won’t be at one company all their working lives. Their careers will consist of jobs at a series of companies where they will handle very different tasks. At the same time, there’s a greater emphasis on landing a "cool" job at a highly regarded company. Popular employers such as the Container Store offer ongoing training and skills development, as well as on-site yoga, massage and fitness programs. At sports retailer REI, workplace perks include showers and bike storage, discounts on gear and up to 10 percent of salary in profit-sharing bonuses. Biotech pioneer Genentech offers a hair salon, dry-cleaning services and sushi in the cafeteria. Bureaucracy is kept to a minimum.

    Al O’Connor, executive vice president of corporate client services at Right Management Consultants, says that many young people look for trendsetters within an industry. "They want to participate in developing a product or service that could revolutionize an industry or change people’s lives."

    For employers, all this translates into striking new challenges. It means developing growth opportunities, offering flexibility and autonomy and finding ways to avoid pigeonholing workers. Chester says that it’s also about discarding traditional values. Within the Generation Y community, there is very little respect for rank, he says. "There is a great deal of respect for a person’s abilities and accomplishments." Finally, it’s about structuring pay and benefits to create a work environment that’s thoroughly appealing.

Workforce Management, February 2004, p. 48 -- Subscribe Now!

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