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Generation Y

Rockstars@Work: Focus On The Future Of Work

How do you keep your employees loyal to your company, even after layoffs? Why is vision so important to attracting and retaining young employees? What can social media teach us about Gen Y employees? These are just some of the questions raised by Nadira Hira's keynote speech at the 2009 RockStars@ Work Conference.

How do you keep your employees loyal to your company, even after layoffs? Why is vision so important to attracting and retaining young employees? What can social media teach us about Gen Y employees? These are just some of the questions raised by Nadira Hira's keynote speech at the 2009 RockStars@ Work Conference.

Nadira Hira, a Gen Y reporter for Fortune magazine, said a key component to attracting and retaining young employees is strong company values. I wrote about this earlier, and it’s worth repeating because it is so important.

So here goes… to retain young employees, your company must have strong values! Gen Yers like to work towards a cause and be part of something bigger to make a “difference,” whatever that might be. But your company’s values cannot be only on paper—they MUST be lived!

“If your values aren’t reflected, you’re going to have some trouble,” Hira said. And if you’re still working towards a particular value, recruit your young employees! “Young people want to engage in the mission and contribute, or they won’t want to stay in the organization,” she

 said. Why not let them? It can be done without any time, effort or money on your(the employer’s) part.

Hira told a story about a trainee at JC Penny who wrote to the CEO to ask if he could organize a service project. He received permission and the project was a huge success. Not only that, but it generated great PR for JC Penney—and all it cost the company was a minute or two of the CEO’s time. 

That story leads to another important value: community. Gen Yers want to be part of something bigger. We want to be connected to people and be part of a team.

Why else do you think social media is so popular? It represents this spirit in my generation. (In case you don’t know, Facebook is marketed as a tool to connect people.) And why shouldn’t there be community within a company? After all, we’re all on the same team working towards the same goal! The JC Penney story is a good example of how even top managers can take an active role in their employees’ work.

Remember that scene in “Aladdin” where Genie tells Aladdin “Beeeeee yourself”? Take that to heart, because authenticity can take you very far in your employee relations. 

Hira said that a company called Zappos had to make many layoffs at one time. Instead of keeping it hushed up, they were honest and open with their employees. They actually explained why they were having layoffs on (dread!) Facebook and Twitter, and invited feedback and questions from all concerned.

The tactic was a huge success. It ended up generating good will, even among those laid off. People loved the company and said that if they ever got the chance, they would work there again. Of course, this could only benefit Zappos because when they could hire again, they had a pool of experienced ex-employees from which to draw. 

So remember, build strong values, foster a team spirit and “beeeeee” yourself!

Melissa Hackenmueller
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