Recruiting and Retaining “Generation Y and X” Employees

Managing Gen X, Y, Baby Boomers

Does your organization rely on the younger generation for employees? Are some of your workers in their late teens, twenties, and early-to-mid thirties? If so, they’re part of Generation Y or Generation X. Many employers would agree that both groups seem to be more motivated by personal fulfillment opportunities on the job than by traditional monetary rewards.

Generation Y employees in particular are viewed as idealistic, with a high level of social consciousness. They’re frequently anti-establishment and are concerned about stress on the job among other things. Generally outspoken, they make up the largest pool of young people in the job market today. Promises of monetary rewards and overtime pay may not interest them as much as time off to attend a party, concert or just hang out with their friends.

At the risk of lumping everyone into one group, members of Generation X aren’t easy to motivate either. There are 44 million of them as opposed to the predicted 78 million in the Y Generation. They have a social conscience; many are vegetarians and consider themselves “free spirits.” They traditionally have demanded benefits and time off for recreation. You may see less body piercing and tatoos among this group as they gradually move to a more clean-cut look. They’re a resource managers have to rely upon to get the job done, especially for entry-level jobs.

The challenge lies in recruiting people from all generations and successfully leading a winning team. There are many ways to go about it. Some of the following suggestions for finding and keeping Generation Y and Generation X employees can also be applied to people of all ages from all backgrounds. How, then, does the manager make the connection between the available work force, whether young or old, and meeting the needs of managing the department?


Begin by asking current employees for recommendations. Encourage employees to recruit friends and family members. “You may want to offer a cash reward to those whose new hires stay for 90 days or longer.” One organization offers a pair of Nike shoes to employees who stay at least 6 months. They found this strategy to be especially appealing to teens and young adults and extremely cost-effective.

Unsolicited applications and resumes are another source. When people stop by your agency seeking employment, have them complete an application even if you don’t have any vacancies. Prospects that take the time to visit you in person are usually more motivated than someone who makes a phone call. Keep these applications and resumes on file and refer to them when an opening occurs. A phone call to determine the applicant’s current status or interest takes only a few minutes.

Former employees can also provide a valuable pool of experienced workers, especially when you need help during a seasonal rush. Students home from college for the summer/holidays often want to earn extra cash and they’re already trained.

Consider recruiting students from work-study programs. Get proactive in the community. Why not become a member of the advisory committee that supports the vocational education program at the local high school? The program requires students to attend school and work 15 to 20 hours per week.

In your search for employees, find out what other federal and state agencies offer for pay and benefits for the same or similar positions. If your pay scale isn’t quite as competitive as you’d like, remember that items like schedule flexibility, opportunities to learn new skills, and number of hours worked are important to many prospective employees.


Newspaper advertising is another way to attract applicants, but may cost more than you want to spend unless you have several vacancies to fill. For example, an agency in a larger metropolitan area may find it’s cost effective to list several job openings in the same ad for positions in different locations throughout the city. Recruiting via the Internet attracts a large audience, especially those of Generation X and Y as they grew up using computers and are quick to search for job opportunities there.


The application provides the initial information on a candidate. The face-to-face interview is the next important step. Briefly meeting people when they drop off an application or resume is not the same as a personal interview. Schedule a formal interview with those applicants who seem to be a good fit based upon their credentials.

In conducting interviews keep in mind that some members of the younger generation express their individualism through their manner of dress. Some applicants feel, “This is the way I am, take it or leave it, I’m not changing for the job.” What’s acceptable varies according to region of the country and type of employer. Workers with multiple earrings nose rings, or spiked, purple hair may not raise an eyebrow among people in one area, but we would not be acceptable in a more conservative community. Managers have to decide how much is “too much.” Make sure the applicant understands your organization’s guidelines before you hire. Also be aware of how you communicate guidelines. For example, “Our policy doesn’t allow our employees to wear nose rings; would you be willing to conform to that policy?” may get a better response than a blunt, “You can’t wear those things if you work here; you look like a freak.”


Job satisfaction has a direct link to the work environment. Take time to provide orientation for new employees. For many from the Y Generation, this may be their first job. Make sure they understand what you want from them. To quote the late behavioral psychologist, Kurt Einstein, “To the degree that people know what you expect, to the same degree they can succeed.”

Providing a stable work environment includes personally thanking employees for their efforts, writing notes of appreciation, promoting capable employees, and giving praise in public as well as in private. Hold employee meetings to discuss issues they’re concerned about as well as those about which you have concerns. Give them a chance to share their ideas, and listen to what they have to say. Studies have shown that the top motivating techniques are those initiated by the manager and based on employee performance.


The secret is not only how to find good people, but how to keep them. People work for more than the money, especially the X and Y Generation. It’s important to help employees enjoy their jobs. You can accomplish this by setting high standards and making sure employees know what you expect. Create a partnership with your team. Give them a chance to grow and learn new skills; reward their efforts, and celebrate their successes.

Carol Hacker is a human resource consultant, speaker, and trainer who ranks among the experts in the field of recruiting and retention issues. For more than two decades, she’s been a significant voice in front-line and corporate human resource management to small businesses as well as Fortune500 companies. She’s the author of the highly acclaimed books, Hiring Top Performers-350 Great Interview Questions For People Who Need People, The Costs of Bad Hiring Decisions & How to Avoid Them, The High Cost of Low Morale …and what to do about it, and 450 Low-Cost/No-Cost Strategies for recognizing, rewarding & retaining good people, Job Hunting in the 21st Century-Exploding the Myths, Exploring the Realities and 366 Surefire Ways to Let Your Employees Know They Count. Carol can be reached at 770-410-0517.

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