Podcast 32 Transcript: Generation Y

Written by Ian Portsmouth

Ian: Welcome to the Business Coach Podcast, an advice-oriented series that tackles the top issues and opportunities facing Canada’s small businesses.  I’m your host, Ian Portsmouth, the Editor of PROFIT Magazine.  And we’ve developed this podcast in cooperation with BMO Bank of Montreal.

Well, everyone knows the labor market is tight but many observers believe it is only going to get worse as baby-boomers slide into retirement. Such a generational shift wouldn’t normally cause un-due trouble for employers but this time, things are really different. The baby-boom generation is huge and the generation replacing it is relatively small. That generation is called the eco boom or generation Y and your ability to attract, motivate and retain members of this (some would say) ambitious, technology-obsessed and even selfish group of Canadians will factor largely into your business prospects.

Recently, Edmonton-based David Aplin Recruiting conducted a survey of Canadian workers to get a better sense of their wants, needs and how to get the most out of the various generations that make up today’s workforce. Amongst most interesting findings are not only the differences between gen Y and the boomers but their similarities. Here to discuss the survey results and share a few additional insights into managing generation Y is the CEO of the firm behind the survey, Dave Aplin. Dave, welcome to the Business Coach.

Dave: Nice to be here Ian.

Ian: So Dave, tell us what is generation Y? What’s your definition and why do entrepreneurs need to know more about them?

Dave: Well, they’re the young folks that were born after 1980 up till about 1994. So the twenty-one to twenty-eight year olds you see in companies today. In terms of why are they important, you certainly touched on it on the intro, there is the mass exodus of the boomers but more than that in the sense that it’s the new group seems to be a little different than previous generations. They’ve grown up in a different time and they seem genuinely different.

Ian: So what are some of those key differences?

Dave: Well, in terms how they were brought up and that kind of environmental impact on how they were brought up. They were the first cohort, the first generation that grew up with internet, email, text messaging, play station, XBOXes, all of that kind of thing has had a huge impact on this generation. They are wanting to be individualistic in the sense of liking the body piercing and the tattoos and the baseball caps on backwards and all that kind of thing that, you know, some of the older generations kind of scratch their head about. They were brought up during the Columbine shooting, 9/11, the Bali bombing, there has been a lot of external influences that really caused them to kind of change their way of looking at things.

They are very conscious of their peers and trust their peers and get information from their peers. They seem to have very little brand loyalty, they’ll switch brands very readily. They will also switch companies readily if a company is not providing what they want.

Ian: What about environmental consciousness? Do they want to work for a green employer?

Dave: I think that’s important to them for sure and it’s one of those things, all things being equal, they would go to a green employer. Whether they would go to a green employer and give up money and things like that, my sense is that they wouldn’t. They might do their green environmental thing personally and after hours but they seem to want it all, so to speak.

Ian: Now let’s talk a bit about your survey then. What are some of the most important incentives for generation Y in their words?

Dave: Well, we surveyed three thousand folks of this generation, coast to coast. You know, some of the things, the number one thing that they are looking for was advancement opportunity. So they are a very ambitious group, they oddly enough rated benefits quite high and that was definitely a surprise to us. They are keen on performance-based bonuses and performance-based salary increases. They love new challenges, they like variety. Another one that surprised us big time was a desire for pension and retirement savings. And I think we should read that as RRSP type contributions that they can take with them if they leave. Very much interested in meaningful work, want to make a difference, like to be recognized. Salary oddly enough was quite low, it was the eighth most important item, one that, you know, I think as a generation they get accused of being kind of money hungry but money wasn’t nearly as important as the advancement and the other things.

Ian: Now you also polled employers about their perception of what generation Y is looking for? What did you find?

Dave: Well, we found some gaps. The employers were, you know, if we counted just the offerings that companies make, one of the most frequent offerings was their contribution to local charities and causes and they were almost saying, you know, they’ll do that and that should help attract people. Well, that didn’t show up anywhere on the gen Y screen. So that’s a bit of a disconnect. Another one, companies frequently offer casual dress code and that did not show up. So I think it’s not that they feel that’s unimportant, it’s more other things are more important. So I think it behooves the employers to really get a handle on what that generation is looking for and how they can develop a value proposition to attract the gen Ys.

Ian: So, let’s talk a little bit about these gaps. How can smart employers exploit these gaps? If there is a disconnect between what most employers are offering or what they think they should offer and what genY wants and obviously, there is an opportunity for somebody with a good understanding of that gap to come, swoop in and fill the gap.

Dave: You know one thing that we need to all be aware of is that, you know, when we say gen Y wants this or gen Y wants that, there is many segments within gen Y. So to lump them all in one blob is probably a mistake. I think companies are going to need a fairly varied offering to attract the different segments within generation Y. Things that come up that companies should really focus on I think the whole health and wellness, fitness membership, company stock options, but more than anything really challenging work and variety. I think those are things that need to be really emphasized by companies. Signing bonuses, subsidized transportation were low on what companies offered but high on what generation Y wanted. So I think within the survey, there is lots of room for companies to look at what the young folks want and what they can offer. And of course they have to offer them to their whole staff and not just the generation Y.

Ian: Now, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that a generation of young, intelligent, ambitious people who have a lot of confidence would want a lot of perks and benefits. But as they age, do you think that, you know, reality will set in and they will realize they can’t demand all of these many different things?

Dave: Well I think yes is the answer. You know the boomers who burn bras and things like that forty years ago have all mellowed over the years. And I think that’s probably a natural phenomenon and I would fully expect it will be the case with generation Y. But what might be different on this one is for those genY people who really do want it all, they can probably get it all because of the huge gap in the number of people in the workforce. That bulge of boomers that are leaving, and I read just recently in Business Week that every twenty four hours, there are ten thousand baby-boomers leaving the workforce in the U.S. So on the ten to one rule, that would be a thousand per day in Canada. That is a massive number. So they have to be filled with the gen X and the gen Y. So there will be unprecedented opportunities for this generation Y and I think they will be able to get it. They might have to hop a bit but if they intend in getting it, they will. So it’s going to make it very challenging for organizations to retain them. They are going to have to constantly be fine-tuning their value proposition for employees.

Ian: Dave thanks very much for joining us.

Dave: Thank you.

Ian: Dave Aplin is the CEO of David Aplin Recruiting in Edmonton.

Well, that’s it for another episode of the Business Coach Podcast. Be sure to check out other episodes which you can download from BMO.com, profitguide.com and iTunes. If you have any comments or suggestions about the podcast, please send them to me at feedback@bmo.com.

Until next time, I am Ian Portsmouth, the Editor at PROFIT Magazine, wishing you continued success.

Originally appeared on PROFITguide.com