The Care and Feeding of Gen-Y Entrepreneurs

Gen-Y workers prefer working where they can make a difference. Retaining that workforce is key for small businesses.
Contributing Writer,
January 29, 2012

Where is Generation Y working during these tough times? And what do their employment trends mean for small employers?

A study examining where people aged 18 to 29 are working analyzed 4 million Gen-Y Facebook profiles. Here’s what the report found.

Gen-Y workforce trends

Bye-bye, Fortune 500: Most "millennials" don’t choose Fortune 500 companies as employers. According to the study, only 10 percent of Gen-Y workers have ever worked at a Fortune 500 company, and just 7 percent currently do.

"Fortune 500 companies are having a tough time hiring and retaining Gen-Y workers right now," Dan Schawbel, founder of Millennial Branding, tells CIO magazine. The new study was conducted by Millennial Branding, with

"Gen-Y looks for more flexibility, like [the possibility of] working from home, and they want to have access to social networks. Fortune 500 companies don't usually allow this flexibility.”

Hello, small firms: So where are Gen-Y employees working? Shwabel says they’re more likely to work at startups and small companies.

They work where they can play a bigger role and have more of an impact on the company. The hiring process is also faster and more informal at smaller firms, and there’s usually more flexibility—all factors that appeal to millennials.

On their own: Those who are not working at startups are going a step further and starting their own companies.

The study shows that “owner” is the fifth most-popular job title for Gen-Y on Facebook. Titles like "server,” “intern” and “sales associate” came first. This pattern possibly reflects the poor job market that is pushing young people to start their own businesses instead of getting stuck in low-level jobs.

Moving fast: I know many people think millennials feel entitled. They believe the young people should pay their dues in entry-level jobs before moving up in the corporate world or starting their own businesses.

But Gen-Y doesn’t agree with this view and, have no problem quitting their jobs if they don’t feel rewarded or sense that they’re contributing to the company. The report found that Gen-Y employees are very likely to job-hop, spending an average of just two years working at their first jobs.

Recruiting and retaining Gen-Y employees

How can your small business recruit Gen-Y workers? And how can you get them to stick around? As a small employer, you have a natural edge over big corporations, but don’t rely on that.

The report urges employers of all sizes to encourage Gen-Y’s entrepreneurial attitude.

What does that mean? I’ve worked with young employees for years and I've come to my own conclusions. This generation craves freedom and independence, kind of like teenagers preparing to leave the nest. But they also want your feedback and guidance.

The solution is to let them be “intrapreneurs” within your company. Put them in charge of their time by offering flextime and remote work schedules. Give them a challenge and let them figure out how to handle it. Then, give them both positive and negative feedback on how they did.

Gen-Y will likely account for 75 percent of the workforce by 2025. The report cautions that, to stay competitive, large corporations must aggressively recruit these workers. Big companies will catch on, so get a head start by making Gen-Y feel welcome and valued at your small business.

Do you have a plan for attracting Gen-Y workers to your work force? What approaches work for you in managing and retaining them?

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