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Connecting with Generation Y

By 2025, members of Generation Y (people born between the mid-eighties and mid-nineties) will make up 70% of the global workforce. With the current stream of millennials entering the workplace set to become a flood, organisations need a better understanding of how to attract and retain this emerging new talent.

A group of 70 millennial leaders from around the world recently stated that leaders need to "think younger" and come up with new ways to address the challenges their businesses face today.

According to a 2012 report by the Kauffman Foundation, the largest entrepreneurial foundation in the US, 29.4% of entrepreneurs were 20 to 34 years old, and roughly 160,000 start-ups a month were led by millennials in 2011. Additionally, a recent survey of IT candidates aged under 35, by recruitment consultants Harvey Nash, found almost half had some entrepreneurial experience.

The case for recruiting the right talent from this generational pool is strengthened by rising global war on talent and skills shortages in sectors such as technology. McKinsey estimated in a recent report that there could be an 18 million person shortage in the supply of highly skilled, university-educated workers by 2020.

Once businesses have understood the case for recruiting Generation Y, they'll need to create a recruitment strategy specifically tailored to doing so. Here are tips on how attract and recruite Gen Y talent.

Getting communication and channels right

When it comes to hiring the best of our younger counterparts, companies are struggling. Consulting firm Anna Ivey believes that managers find it hard to discover the best ways to recruit, manage and retain Generation Y because many don't understand what makes them tick. Tech-savvy millennials typically grew up with a high level of interactive stimulation: TV, video games, the Internet and social media – an experience that older generations do not always readily appreciate.

As a result, today's recruitment communication and channels are rarely aligned with the interests and social media preferences of this target audience. This creates the need for new strategies for recruitment, which are experience-based, responsive and centred on relationship recruitment.

Relationship recruitment

Relationship recruitment strives to cultivate a more personalised, long-term relationship with potential candidates. Its goal is to develop a relationship with passive candidates over time. (Passive candidates may still be students or early graduates who are not yet looking for a job.)

To do this, organisations can use intelligent web-based tools to listen and learn more about visitors to their websites. If these visitors are graduates, they can use this information to connect with them over social channels to ultimately provide them with relevant, timely information about their fields of interest. And, when the time is right, they can offer up information on careers in their organisation. Over time, a relationship of trust develops that will produce graduate candidates who return to the career website when they are seeking a job.

Building your employer brand

Raising awareness of the brand as an 'employer of choice' will support relationship recruitment by helping a 'passive' candidate to recognise, trust and return to the company when he or she is seeking a job.

To do this, there are a number of tactics which can be employed:

Embrace online engagement: By creating a dedicated recruitment microsite a business can provide tailored content to help attract Generation Y.

Employ popular channels for brand building and engagement: By seeding creative content across Twitter, Facebook and YouTube businesses will give the impression of a young, dynamic and creative environment.

Keep it easy and simple: A high quality website, a simple application process and rapid contact with recruiters are key. Sources like MTV and video games have had a huge impact on Generation Y's expectations growing up, so the combination of functionality and fun will work to attract them.

Make the most of external touch points: Job fairs, social networks, postings, ads, conferences, sponsored sports or campus events can play a big role. Businesses can make these events exciting and interesting by taking existing Gen Y employees and graduates to engage with prospects, or offer internships and open days to selected students

Understand Generation Y: Businesses should not be swayed by common preconceptions about this generation. A fuller understanding of their motivations and attitudes will go a long way to helping recruit them.

Understand the technology available: Many technologies are available to meet recruitment needs, such as the latest single, standardised, efficient global talent acquisition platforms. These can bring all of the above under one easily manageable, secure portal.

In the changing landscape of graduate recruitment, the more businesses strive to understand this generation and tailor their communications accordingly, the more they will be able to draw on its multitude of talents. In doing so, businesses will be in a better position to meet tomorrow's challenges with today's workforce.

Neal Bruce (pictured) is head of product management and product marketing at talent management solutions firm Lumesse