Attracting the best young talent: What makes Gen Y tick?

The 18-30-year-old group are revolutionising business - but they don’t respond to traditional motivators

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Look around you, London, and you’ll find Gen Y-ers of all shapes and sizes.

From hoodies to suits, from festival fanatics to home birds, from iPad-lovers to bookworms, from the agenda-setters to the followers - these 18-30-year-olds are critical to the UK’s world of work.

Why should you care? Chances are you’re employing at least one of them, or you’ll have to attract and retain some of them in the near future.

This so called “millennial generation “ doesn’t conform to the “yes sir” mentality and cash isn’t necessarily king for them.

So the big elusive question is: What makes Gen Y tick? Because if you understand that, you have a much better chance of attracting the most talented of them to your organisation.

Hays, the recruiting experts, surveyed 1,000 people aged 18-30 to understand what motivates them, what they expect out of their bosses, and their career aspirations.

Barney Ely, Director at Hays Human Resources, thinks that Gen Y doesn’t identify with typical Gen X ways.

“Gen Y are almost saying: ‘Be clear with me about what you want me to achieve in my work and then trust me. Judge me on my output and not input. Gone are the days of traditional bossy styles, where merely doing the hours meant that you were working hard.  Gen Y today wants coaches and mentors rather than dictatorial people who allocate work to them.”

Money can’t buy Gen Y’s happiness. But what can?

Gen Y-ers want to do exciting work that contributes towards growth in their career. A whopping 60% of respondents in the survey voted for interesting work as their top priority.

At a time where pink slips are being handed out like the evening newspapers, job security (47%) emerged as the second-most important career aspiration for Gen Y.

Then came personal wealth, with 40% of the sample deeming it important, followed by 38% who expect to acquire knowledge and expertise in their jobs.

Career aspirations for Gen Y

The job satisfaction barometer

Now, employers need to remember that Gen Y isn’t risk-averse. More than a quarter (26%) of them expect to have at least seven different employers throughout their careers.

The Hays survey found that the number one factor that motivates Gen Y in a job is “feeling valued and appreciated”, with 50% voting for that factor.

“The transiency Gen Y expects is quite telling,” says Ely.

“Gen Y wants employers to stimulate their mind and give them an opportunity to grow and develop and be valued in an organisation. They just don’t want to do a job for the sake of it, they want to make a difference to the business and society. They don’t see a financial reward as the be all and end all.”

Job satisfaction barometer

The second-most important factor (42%) that boosts job satisfaction levels is doing “varied and interesting work”.

You may find it surprising that financial awards got only 40% of the vote.

Nikki Peters, 24, senior account executive at a London-based PR agency, agrees that a handsome reward isn’t the biggest motivator.

“As cheesy as it sounds, doing interesting things and enjoying my work is worth more than a good financial reward to me. I spend a large part of my week at work, so not enjoying it for a good salary would make me miserable.

“Constantly learning new skills, taking on new challenges and being able to laugh a lot at work give me motivation. That said, there are still bills to be paid, so being paid enough does matter,” she says.

Gen Y’s ideal boss

Gen Y's ideal boss

While the typical old school command and control boss is nobody’s idea of an ideal boss, Gen Y wants to find a mentor and a friend in their line manager.

More than half (51%) of Gen Y wants a boss that can be a mentor for their careers with over 40% expecting a leader in their ideal boss.

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