Interview Christine Simard

Christine Simard possesses some 20 years' experience. In turn corporate manager, trainer or consultant, she can boast about having implemented many services both in Canada and abroad.

As was the case for the baby boomer generation, generation Y (comprising youths 18 to 25 years of age) will leave a trace of its passing; perhaps not as big as that of their grandparents, but big enough to have a large impact on society. Generation Y will carve out a place for itself to a much greater extent than the generation that preceded it (generation X).

What do you think is the best way to go about recruiting a generation Y worker?

Generation Y youths like growing as a team. They believe in teamwork much more than the baby boomers, who merely arranged to get along with their colleagues. The Ys, on the other hand, attach a lot of importance to their circle of friends, their "network." The best way to recruit a generation Yer is therefore to ask to those already working in the company to refer their friends and acquaintances. A Y's network is much vaster than one would think; it knows no boundaries because it draws upon the power of computers. A generation Yer can refer someone from the Gaspé region or Quebec City to whom he or she has been chatting online for ten years.

Another way to hire Ys is to attract them with stimulating work. Youths from this generation have always been stimulated by the Internet, video games and group activities in school. They want their jobs to be like this too. Jobs offered to them should therefore provide variety. You shouldn't exaggerate the truth, however, because at least half of generation Y adults grew up in blended families and instinctively know when someone is lying to them. When a position does not provide a lot of variety, young workers should be warned, so that they do not get demotivated them in the long run.

How can a company go about keeping its generation Y employees?

Generation Y youths do not attach any importance to job security. They do, however, take salary into consideration. One of the reasons a gen Yer quits is because the company does not offer a sufficiently high salary compared to what he or she could earn elsewhere.

Ys do not have any corporate loyalty. They will accept a job to gain experience and won't hesitate to leave as soon as they are offered a more interesting one at better pay. Some change positions every two or three months! As opposed to generation X workers, who feared not being able to find new work, Ys are ready to change jobs because they are in high demand, with a greater supply of jobs than demand. But although Ys are not loyal to the company, they are to the group, so if the company hires people from their network and forms a homogeneous Y group, they will stay loyal to their friends.

A company must keep its young employees up to date on employment opportunities in other departments and let them go from one department to the next. One of the problems with keeping Ys is that they are not sufficiently informed of in-house job opportunities.

Companies will therefore have to show creativity and make changes to satisfy their young workers.

Must the selection interview be adapted to this new generation, and if so, how? What questions does one ask a Y? If I understand correctly, the question "Where do you see yourself in five years?" is taboo?

It is not the interview questions to ask that need to be changed so much as the criteria for evaluating the answers. Technical questions will always be the same. In interviews, Ys are very honest with recruiters, and in response to that old chestnut, "Where do you see yourself in five years?" will answer that they no longer see themselves working for the company, because by that time, they will have started their own company! They won't be hired because the company requires sworn loyalty. Evaluation criteria should therefore avoid requiring several years' loyalty, and limit themselves to two or three years maximum.

How should the answers of a generation Y candidate be interpreted? How should he or she be evaluated?

If baby boomers evaluate the answers of a Y with respect to their own values or those of their generation, it is certain that most young candidates will be rejected because they do not share the same ones. The answers of a Y should be compared to the values of his or her generation, which are teamwork, family, money, fun, variety and stimulation. A Y must not be compared to a baby boomer, nor to an X. Corporate motivation and remuneration systems must be implemented that please the Ys, but also the Xs, because the Xs and Ys do not necessarily like the same things as the baby boomers. Corporate values must be changed to reflect those of generation Y, otherwise gen Ys will not feel comfortable.

Is it necessary to have a generation Y recruiter to recruit Ys?

The literature abounds with this suggestion. The corporate presentation and the selection grid must be reviewed by a Y. It is also suggested to have a Y attend the interview to provide a positive image of the company. No matter what, a person of that generation must absolutely play a role at one point or another of the recruiting process.

Are there many types of Ys or do they form a homogeneous group?

It is important not to generalize—there are Ys who resemble Xs and vice versa. The closer one gets to the 25–28 year-old bracket, the more blurred the distinction. This depends as much on personal values as on group, societal or country of origin values. For example, the profile of a 27-year-old of African origin will more closely fit that of someone from the traditionalist generation!

How do Ys get along with other generations of workers? What must a company do to create a harmonious environment and serene cohabitation in its midst?

If Ys work with other generations than their own, the company must arrange to create team spirit. If baby boomers, who are workaholics, drop their prejudices (that young people should work more), they will get along just fine with the Ys because they too have team spirit. The problem lies with generation X, which tends to be extremely independent and rather individualistic. In general, generation X employees are not very fond of teamwork. The worst corporate combinations are between the Xs and the baby boomers, because of their different values, and between the Xs and Ys.

What do Ys think about previous generations?

Generation Y youths say of the traditionalist generation that they are reliable, gutsy and make good managers. Even if baby boomers thought that their parents were tyrants, the Ys get along well their grandparents because they share the same values. The Ys have known the war in Iraq, while traditionalists lived through the world wars. This created shared values such as leadership.

Ys think that the baby boomers work too much and that the Xs are too depressed. As opposed to the Xs, who experienced the cold war and the threat of nuclear annihilation, the Ys were spared this climate of fear and consequently have much more confidence in themselves.

The Ys perceive things positively; they describe themselves as happy, responsible and optimistic, as opposed to older adults who see them as lazy, violent and unreliable.

What types of jobs do Ys particularly like?

Ys adore all jobs that directly or indirectly involve technology. And if technology does not exist within the company, a Y should be hired to implement it! They are currently the most qualified on the market to do so.

Ys are equally suited for jobs that require creativity, like marketing, and that draw on communication skills, because they are used to communicating.

In the long term, however, hospitals and public service corporations will have a staffing problem because their employees have specific schedules to respect. Work conditions in hospitals and other areas of the public sector will need to change, because Ys are not interested in working within large government structures. There will also be a great many more small entrepreneurs than today.

The Ys can be perfectly summed up by the following: The Ys combine the baby boomers' teamwork ethic with the "can-do" attitude of the traditionalists and the technological know-how of the Xs.

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