Generation Y ‘derailed’ during the recession, expert warns

Generation Y has been “slapped round the face” during the recession because they either cannot find any jobs or have been the first group to be made redundant, according to a director of talent.

Alison Chadwick, group talent director at advertising agency AMV BBDO, told delegates at the Working Families conference in London yesterday that Generation Y – typically teenagers and young adults aged under 30 – has been “derailed” due to the recession.

One in five young people are now unemployed, according to the latest government statistics.

Chadwick told Personnel Today: “Generation Y has had a recession reality check where their optimism and confidence has had a bit of slap round the face by the fact many people aren’t finding jobs or were the first to be made redundant.”

But despite there being many more candidates than jobs in the economic downturn, employers must not become reticent about ensuring their employer brand remains attractive to new recruits, she said.

“Employers unfortunately are not able to be lazy about how they respond to Generation Y. The power has shifted back to employers, but we still have to work really hard to make sure that we are an employer they want to work for.”

Chadwick said flexible working policies and enabling technology such as laptops and Blackberries were important to the younger generation.

She added: “We have to enable Generation Y and empower them, or they will leave [or not apply] when things pick up again.”

Other topics discussed at the conference included the lack of women in leadership roles across private and public sector organisations.

Chairing a panel of industry experts, Sarah Jackson, chief executive of Working Families, asked whether Generation Y would ever help to improve gender quotas as they were likely to demand new ways of working.

Chadwick said: “Generation Y are coming collectively with the muscle to change working practices. They will demand their own working hours and flexibility.”

Summing up the conference, Jackson said: “Whether we’re looking at Generation Y or our failure to get the most out of talented women, there is so much to be done, but the challenge is to create an organisation that harnesses talent and looks after the emotional and physical wellbeing of employees.”

Women’s minister Harriet Harman, shadow work and pensions secretary Theresa May, and Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg joined a number of industry experts and HR professionals to submit brief essays to the conference on work and family life in the future, published yesterday at the conference.

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