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Netting the next generation

As Canada’s baby-boomers continue to retire from the workforce,employers are being faced with a daunting challenge — to not only findyoung talent, but to make sure they stick around as well.


As Canada’s baby-boomers continue to retire from the workforce, employers are being faced with a daunting challenge — to not only find young talent, but to make sure they stick around as well.

Canadian statistics show about 8.7 million people aged 55 and older live in Canada, 2.7 million of which are nearing retirement soon, a situation that Judy Sweeney, vice-president of research at talent management firm Taleo Corporation, says is likely to exacerbate the rush for young talent.

“As people exit the workforce there aren’t enough people to fill those positions. There certainly will be a continuing war for talent,” said Sweeney.

Finding young talent is one thing however; keeping them around is another story entirely.

“The younger generation is very interested with their career path in an industry rather than with a single company. They’re jumping from one company to another because they are much better equipped to understand the opportunities in the market,” Sweeney said.

Dubbed “Generation Y” by market analysts, younger candidates under the age of 27 have different desires and habits than previous generations and Sweeney says employers need to listen.

“Gen Y-ers are very self-confident, they’re very technically savvy and they are a generation that asks the question ‘Why?’ when told to do something,” Sweeney said.

To retain younger workers, companies have to be willing to change the work environment. Sweeney says Gen Y-ers are accustomed to and prefer collaboration and they love to multi-task, so companies need to take steps to put young talent into teams and make sure they’re not stuck doing one thing all the time.

Gen Y-ers are also much more plugged into social networks than older generations so Sweeney says many companies are now starting to offer postings and interactive groups on social networking sites like Facebook and LinkedIn.com. Manufacturing giant Proctor & Gamble even offers a game targeted at Gen Y-ers on their recruiting site that assesses teamwork skills in a fun way. It’s all a part of understanding how younger workers communicate, Sweeney says.

“You have to go to their sources and speak to them in their languages,” she said.

When it comes to money, Sweeney says research shows younger talent is less interested in financial rewards and much more interested in career flexibility — both in pursuing career paths and in working more flexible hours. She recounts a story of a computer programmer who refused a raise to instead ask for night-time hours and an easy chair as an example of how traditional approaches might be out of tune with what Gen Y-ers really want.

“Ask them what they want and don’t assume they want the same things as older generations. Work evolves from generation to generation, and I think this is a particularly bright and energetic generation,” Sweeney said.

 
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