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Often called the ‘Me Generation’, Gen Y has been tagged by many employers as a group of workers who ‘want it all without having to work for it’.

The truth is, they are simply bringing a different set of values, interests, needs and ambitions into the workforce – just as previous generations have done before them.

With Gen Y destined to become the largest generation in the Australian workforce by 2020, there’s great impetus for employers to move with the times and learn how to unlock the potential of this younger generation of go-getters.

Here are five attributes organisations need to put forward when trying to recruit and retain the latest cohort of workers.

Be flexible

To Gen Y, also referred to as the Millennial generation, their job is an important part of their life but it is not ‘their life’. According to the Bureau of Statistics, Australian workers aged 20-24 are three times more likely to change jobs in a year than those aged 45-54, and nearly one in four of those aged 20-24 change jobs in any given year. In addition, one in three Gen Y workers is employed on a casual or part-time basis. Change and flexibility are two words this generation is not afraid of!

Employers who learn to be flexible will be able to tap into the energy, drive and ambition the younger workforce has to offer. This can mean offering full-time positions with flexible hours, part-time work to suit their schedule (taking into consideration many Gen Yers will still be studying) or the possibility to swap shifts with other workers.

Flexible employers will also provide Gen Y with different ways of learning, capitalising on their strong multimedia literacy and willingness to learn by doing.

Be collaborative

Gen Y wants a place to belong. It is a generation that blurs the line between social and work, demanding a friendly workplace and a collaborative learning environment with teams to share with. Managers and leaders need to ‘loosen up’ and allow themselves to engage with this workforce beyond the simple call of duty.

When used wisely, social tools such as online forums or intranets can help foster a great sense of community and collaboration and lead to the innovative thinking Generation Y looks for in an employer.

Be supportive

Millennial workers seek an opportunity, not a job. They want an opportunity to learn, develop themselves and grow. Employers who provide a constant stream of challenges as well as the appropriate training, coaching and mentoring to support their Gen Y’s growth will keep them engaged.

This generation also needs to feel a sense of accomplishment and so positive recognition for a job well done will never go unnoticed.

Be transparent

Gen Y grew up with accessibility to so much information at their fingertips. Because of this organisations to be up front and transparent about their practices. What they want, is an employer who walks the talk.

Also known as Generation ‘Why’, this workforce asks “why?” not to judge, but to better see the big picture, understand the reasons underpinning certain decisions and rules, and to assign greater meaning to their work.

Be community-minded

Gen Y workers value employers with a greater social purpose – whether that be through great environmental practices or through their support for humanitarian causes. They like to see their personal commitment to the social good translated into their workplace.

Organisations’ recruitment platforms, social profiles and website should convey these five attributes in order to attract Gen Y workers. But ultimately, it is by living and breathing these practices on a day-to-day basis that employers will retain the talent and energy our younger workforce has to offer.

About the author

Fiona Anson is the co-founder and director of Workible, a new mobile and social recruitment app for the flexible workforce. Fiona is a serial entrepreneur having owned businesses for over 20 years. In additional to starting up several successful companies she has won the American Express Fastest Growing Business Award, Sydney Businesswoman of the Year and was a NSW Finalist for Telstra Businesswoman of the Year.

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