The changing expectations of a new labour force

The changing expectations of a new labour force

Generation Y & Beyond – a new recruitment paradigm


In mid 2000 I was invited to lead a scientific research project studying arachnids at altitude in the Nepalese Himalaya. This was an opportunity that I had been waiting for having directed my tertiary studies and vocation into Biology Sciences for about a decade. The experience had a profound impact on me in so many ways but, of most significance, was the opportunity to work with a group of young people participating in the Millennium Expedition For Young Australians, under the patronage of then Federal Democrats leader Natasha Stott Despoja.
During eight weeks in the shadows of the world’s highest peaks, I made a decision to change career and become a Youth Worker, inspired by the young people I lived with in the Himalaya. Some 15 years later, I think I’ve come to understand young people quite well. I’ve sat with some of our most marginalised and damaged kids; I’ve also had time with some of the most determined and dedicated.

New World

Unquestionably the journey of adolescence has held similar challenges for each young person throughout the generations. It is just as certain that this current generation of young people face challenges and opportunities on an unprecedented scale. As a young person, my world extended little more than a few residential blocks from my home. As far as I was willing to peddle my BMX was the outer perimeter of my turf. Only a decade or two later and kids live in a global community bound only by their access to an iPad or other such device. The arrival of the World Wide Web, social media and a 24 hour news cycle provide an abyss of information, often unscrutinised or uncensored. Whilst traditional forms of employment and social engagement slowly rust into oblivion, a new cyber-world has emerged creating virtual hubs to communicate, transact and simply hang out.


The new batches of candidates now entering our labour markets are derived from this world. It’s a world that previous generations including their closest cousins, Generation X, have only limited understanding of. The issue for us in positions of authority is that this new batch does view the world very differently. Their expectations of us, themselves and society are different from those we carried into our first experiences of employment. They are the Informed and Empowered. They are on the move and they are coming to a job interview near you.
Most Gen Y carry a level of confidence in themselves and their ability to a level that former generation simply never thought possible. They do, by default, expect to respected and be heard. Their mantra is simple but powerful: “Respect me today and I will respect you tomorrow”


You could be excused for thinking I am simply ‘youth-bashing’, but in fact I am a strong believer in today’s young people. I believe that employers need to engage this cohort in a new way; an exciting way, one that clearly describes their role and what’s in it for them; Role Clarity.


Here are some tips for engaging with young people today and improving your chances of obtaining the best new talent on the market:

1. Understand that young people see themselves as both a commodity and a consumer. Employment is a two-way transaction and employers should be willing to demonstrate what it is that makes them an ‘employer of choice’.

2. Respect is a two-way street. The old mantra of “respect is earned” does not apply to this generation. If employers establish a platform of respect initially, they can expect respect to be repaid in-turn.

3. Provide role clarity – what are the unique qualities/ contributions of the role and the person who fills it? What exactly does the person do in the context of the organisation?

4. Engage, Involve and Empower – provide opportunities for learning, for skill development and for decision-making. Focus communications around connecting their efforts and behaviour to the overall performance and strategic direction of the business.

5. Acknowledge their understanding or interpretation of the world. When they are wrong, use fact and clear examples of why and how.

6. Recognise and acknowledge their efforts but don’t over-exaggerate it; be authentic.

And so…

EmployeGen Y are bringing new expectations to our workpalcesrs, HR Managers and line managers should not be scared of Generation Y, yet they need to acknowledge and accept that young people today do operate under a new paradigm; one that we have not seen before. Given respect and opportunity to participate in the affairs of the company, they can and will become exceptionally valuable assets. Lets face it, we are an ageing population and, without the commitment of our new labour force, our organisations face an uncertain and time-limited future.

To truly understand the needs and expectations of young people entering the workforce, take some time to ask them; it is a simple but very powerful strategy to build rapport and establish exactly the type of candidate you have before you.


Having worked with young people for over a decade, we can help you design your engagement and recruitment strategies.  Simply send us an email or give us a call and we’ll get you on the right path!

Brad Clarke

Brad Clarke

"In order to create a better future, you must know a better future exists"
Brad Clarke

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