Workforce: Gen Y for Hire

March 1, 2009
Recruiting the incoming generation of workers requires a more creative approach.

Generation Y—the group once accused of having the attention span of a 30-second YouTube video—is growing up and entering the workforce at a time when the marketplace is undergoing a major demographic shift. Recruiting Gen Y into distribution jobs will require understanding a group with a whole new attitude toward work.

Gen Y employees have often been negatively identified as demanding and self-serving. But, if managed properly, they can be a rich source of high-performing talent with the ability to use technology like a second language. They can perform a myriad of tasks across a number of business disciplines, and many are willing to live just about anywhere as long as the job and company are “fun.”

The question then for many employers is how to attract 20-something workers into their distribution channels—and, just as importantly, how to retain them.

Tomorrow Is Here
Also known as Millennials or Echo Boomers, members of Generation Y were born between 1981 and 1999 and will not only be defined by their sheer numbers but also in terms of their huge social and economic impact. Numbering nearly 81 million, they make up the largest generation in U.S. history—outnumbering even the Baby Boomers.

There are five major characteristics that help to define the members of Generation Y. They are racially and culturally diverse; extremely independent because of divorce, day care, latchkey parenting and the technological environment in which they were raised; more egalitarian in their social views than older generations; highly connected to their peers; and feel a true sense of empowerment, thanks in large part to overindulgent parents.

Millennial Management
Companies that adapt their compensation packages and job structures to respond to the needs and expectations of Generation Y will be better positioned to attract the employees they need and want. That means distribution managers must adapt to the changing face of their labor environment in two ways. First, they need to adopt a more creative approach to job structures and recruiting to appeal to this finicky and diverse workforce. Next, they must implement a comprehensive labor management system to ensure the workers they do attract are used as efficiently and effectively as possible.

Younger workers respond best to a fast-paced work environment with extensive technology. Employers that want to attract workers from this group need to improve the image of the distribution environment by developing innovative ways to make these jobs more attractive to them. To position your company ahead of the competition, consider these strategies:

• Build a more collaborative environment between managers and employees;
• Learn to respect their ideas wholeheartedly, even though they are new to the workplace;
• Construct a strong incentive-reward system for good performance and meeting objectives;
• Enhance total compensation packages;
• Establish flexible work schedules;
• Foster the social aspects of work and add fun activities to the workplace to make it a more relaxed and enjoyable environment;
• Increase the use of technology to automate processes that are currently done manually;
• Start a mentoring program that pairs new workers with company leaders and role models;
• Provide more training and expand learning opportunities;
• Employ technology to manage labor. Software can help manage workers objectively and fairly, identify high performers and optimize the number of employees needed.

Peter Schnorbach is a senior director for product management at Manhattan Associates, a supply chain services provider. He can be reached at [email protected].

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