Employers should engage the Google Generation
The communication styles and job expectations of Generation Y – those born between 1980 and 2000 – are totally different from those of previous generations, and prospective employers who want to attract school leavers and graduates now entering the workforce need to shift their thinking or risk losing talented candidates, according to Mark Gray, head of specialist HR recruitment and technology company Graylink.
Gray says exposure to online media and technology during their formative years means the techno-savvy young job seekers of today gather and act on information in very different ways to their predecessors.
“They not only want but expect to have similar technology tools in their offices to those they use in their personal lives,” he says.
These new generation employees, also known as the Google Generation or the Millennials, are motivated by self-fulfilment, work-life balance and choice as much as money, he says. They also attach far greater value to social connections and social media, which they maintain through constant engagement via their cellphones, laptops and iPods.
Their preferred way of doing things is already impacting on workplaces throughout the world to such an extent that in an article published in February, The Times suggested that a better model of how to define work should be devised.
“Think task, not time,” it suggested. “Gauge performance on the quality of work performed.”
Help managers and employees learn to measure dedication in ways other than face time. Use today’s networking capabilities to allow employees to work from anywhere. Shift your definition of work from a place your employees go for a specified period to something they do any time, anywhere.”
Gray points out that the differences between this generation and the last extend also to their methods of job-hunting – and, with a significant percentage of Baby Boomers, as the previous generation was known, about to retire in the next few years, employers have to get to grips now with how to engage with the Google Generation to avoid a workforce deficit.
“While older generations may prefer printed job advertisements, Generation Y increasingly consumes media online. The Baby Boomers scoured the newspapers for vacancies and trusted corporate marketing for research about a company, but the Google Generation is doing all this online, researching a new job as they would research a consumer product before buying it. The increased use of mobile Internet through smart phones means career sites also have to be stripped down to work on the simplest online platform.”
Companies need to find new ways of engaging with the new generation if they wish to successfully recruit the bright young employees of tomorrow, he says. “Generation Y’s conversation takes place in online forums, on blogs and on social networks such as LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. Employers need to have an active online presence to connect with them and become part of the conversation. Forums and other online spaces are starting to become interesting places to spot great talent.”
In his firm’s experience, however, only a small percentage of South African employers understand how to talk to the Google Generation. “With little understanding of the Internet and the online society, employers default to what they know best: untargeted recruitment advertising,” Gray says. “But the online shift is not a passing fad, and employers who do not move with the times may find it difficult to engage scarce talent in the future.”
Access to information and transparency on the web has taken some of the power from companies to control information and placed it in the hands of the job candidates, he says. “For example, JobVent, a peer-networking website, enables job candidates to rate their experiences of working at a particular company. A number of companies with poor employer brands have suffered immense image damage as a result of scathing reviews.”
Another emerging trend is that, with a growing awareness of the importance of personal branding, job seekers are increasing their online presence.
“Candidates are increasingly compiling video resumés or using LinkedIn to set up a CV for a global passport to jobs. They are also establishing personal networks via sites such as Facebook, and posting to blogs such as ThoughtLeader or online forums such as MyADSL to build their profiles as specialists on specific topics.”
Google recently made excellent use of the new generation’s need for information-sharing in a campaign to promote its new Swiss headquarters, featuring a selection of PowerPoint slides with photos reflecting a modern, inspiring, fun workspace, he says.
“The clips spread like wildfire as the dream job, via peer-referral on the Internet.”
He adds that with more opportunities for social networking emerging, audiences are becoming increasingly fragmented. “Some forums are also turning into closed groups where participation is by invitation only.
Employers will have to carefully segment and select their platforms for involvement to ensure the best return on their investments over time.”
Employing top skills in the future will rely on building personal connections and close online relationships. “But establishing an online presence does not come overnight,” he says. “Just as you wouldn’t barge in on a group of people having a private conversation, you can’t just drop in on a blog or forum and immediately start talking about your employer brand. You have to join the discussion regularly and contribute ideas over time for anyone to listen to you.”
He points out that companies need not necessarily do their recruitment on the Internet, but should at least be aware of what is being talked about and what the current issues are among young people, who conduct most of their discussions online. As recruiters must go where their audience is, employers could use online advertising to direct job seekers to their ads in the print media, through which they still reach their biggest audience in this country.
Used in this way, online media can offer benefits not only to potential employers but also to the print media, he says. “The Internet can thereby become a tool for and not a competitor to the print media.”