Hiring managers tend to look for experience when bringing in new talent, with most seeking workers with five to 15 years of experience. However, that's the smallest demographic in the pool of job applicants. If employers hire younger individuals, they can build their skills for the future when the majority of job seekers will be from Gen Y. According to estimates, up to 75% of the U.S. workforce in 2025 will come from Gen Y.

"They may not have lots of experience in the traditional sense, but they've grown up with technology and social media, which are skills many companies look for today," explains Kevin C. Carlson, CEO of Brill Street + Company.

Carlson's consulting firm recently awarded technology and analytics company Enova the No. 1 spot on its Top 50 Employers for Gen Y Emerging Talent in Chicago list.

Founded eight years ago by young entrepreneurs, Enova continues to support a work culture attractive to young, driven workers. Of its 1,000 employees, approximately 80% are from generation Y.

"We've worked very hard [in recent years] to keep the company culture very entrepreneurial in spirit," says Sarah Doll, senior director of talent management, Enova.

Doll explains that these young workers are collaborative and not afraid to take risks, characteristics that perfectly fit Enova's innovative and fast-paced mentality. For example, one of its corporate values is to "Operate as an Owner," and the company encourages employees to show initiative in their career development. This tenet suits the typical Gen Y worker, who "doesn't want to wait for a promotion, they want to contribute now at a higher level," says Carlson. He advises employers "keep them actively involved in the company" to take advantage of their energy and ideas.

At Enova, if the company implements a new idea, the person who developed the idea gets to work closely with a team to help their idea come to fruition, no matter what the person's title is or if they're a new hire or intern.

Another corporate value, "Best Answer Wins," opens a two-way street for communication and collaboration. Employees bring great ideas and a great work ethic, and their employer, in turn, trusts and supports them to execute those ideas.


Getting from here to there

The company revamped its traditional score-based performance review process this year, turning it into a talent review. Now employees receive current performance feedback, as well as advice for how to develop their skills for the future.

"We're hearing from a lot of Gen Yers that it's not just the recognition and feedback for [recent work performance] they want to know, [but also] where to go from here and how to get there," says Doll. Workers from all generations are giving positive feedback and asking Doll why the company hadn't made this change earlier.

Enova also recently rolled out a new online recognition program so colleagues and managers can recognize star performers on the spot. A colleague or manager can post the worker's accolade on a streaming newsfeed that's broadcast to the company and shares why the individual earned points and how the worker's positive action aligns with one of five corporate values. The recognition program, Enova Spotlight, gives employees constant feedback with a social media feel and allows them to redeem points for rewards attractive to the company's young workforce, such as travel or meals at local restaurants.

"It turns out a lot of what the Gen Yers want is something that the other generations are on board with, they just didn't have it in their past," says Doll. Enova also offers coveted onsite perks such as haircuts, massages, yoga classes and manicures.

According to Carlson, Gen Y workers enjoy the social aspects of work and respond well to community events and even activities held outside the workplace. Carlson believes that most employers have a rules-based culture from their experience working with baby boomers and generation X, but suggests employers consider building flexibility into the organization in light of younger workers' expectations.



Gen Y values

In general, 12% of Gen Y ranked benefits as the most important factor when they consider an employer, with 52% considering it among their top five influences, according to research from Brill Street + Company. Overwhelmingly, paid time off was most important to Gen Y, with 95% rating it as influential or very influential. Other benefits important to Gen Y when considering an employer include:

* 92% said health, dental and vision insurance coverage was influential or very influential to them.

* An annual performance bonus was influential or very influential to 85% of these workers.

* Employer matching on their 401(k) plan was influential or very influential for 83%.

* 54% said stock options were influential or very influential.

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