Engaging ‘Generation Y’: the challenges and opportunities for employers

On Thursday, October 30th 2014, Dublin’s Alexander Hotel hosted the latest in gradireland’s series of Breakfast Masterclasses.

The Halogen Talent Summit on the ‘The Future of Work – a Masterclass in Managing the New Generation’ explored such themes as:

  • How the workforce landscape is changing and what that means for students, graduates and employers.
  • Today’s inter-generational workforce: the modern workforce will have employees and managers ranging from those born pre-war, the ‘Maturist’ generation, post-war ‘Baby Boomers’, the ‘Generation X’ of the late 60’s and 70’s, Generation Y; those born in the 80’s and early 90’s and Generation Z, those born after 1995. See infographic below.
  • Specific strategies for employers to engage Generation Y, or the Millennial Generation, based upon Irish research featuring young professionals working as engineers, lawyers and accountants

Infographic showing the attributes of the various generations which are active in today’s workforce.

Generation Y & what they want?

The first presentation was by Dr Mary Collins, a Senior HR Professional currently working with the Royal College of Surgeons Institute of Leadership. For her doctorate, she completed an in-depth study of ‘Generation Y’ and their expectations and subsequent effects on the modern workplace. “In terms of career profiling, a Generation Y employee places a strong emphasis on being challenged, but they also want a work/life balance without a rigid workplace structure,” she explained. Adapting to the needs of ‘Generation Y’ is a growing priority for many employers today, as they represent the next generation of talent for any organisation, and recruiters today are saying that the competition for talent in today’s marketplace is stronger than at any time in the last seven years.

“The graduate entering an organisation today wants a ‘relational’ contract with their employer as opposed to the more traditional ‘transactional’ structure, where loyalty was given in return for reward. Today’s graduate wants to believe in his/her place of work and the overall objectives and business practises of the organisation for which they work. Generation Y employees want to work with an organisation, not for them.”

The benefits of engagement & the price of disengagement

Dr Collins went on to talk about the changing nature of the career path today’s graduates may take, where they can be expected to change jobs as much as 15-20 times during the course of their career. “This is happening and will continue to happen, the reality is that companies will have to adjust to people leaving and moving on and there is a necessity for companies to learn how to manage staff exits in a better fashion.”

Retention of the best new talent is a constant challenge for organisations, and, as Mary explained, one of the barriers to organisations keeping their best people is the failure to keep a high proportion of them ‘engaged’ and happy in the workplace. “Research shows that only 29% of employees could be described as engaged, with 52% disengaged-which translates as apathetic or unhappy-and 19% are actively disengaged, which manifests itself in active disruption within the organisation. If an employee is engaged, they are 87% less likely to leave and 20% more productive.”

Generation Y & their growing influence

So how can companies work successfully with Generation Y? This is the generation portrayed on the cover of Time Magazine as the ‘Me, Me, Me Generation’. In fact, judging by the presentation at the seminar, the challenge of recruiters in successfully engaging the Generation Y employee should be balanced in the fact that if the workplace in which this generation was properly realised, it could be argued that it would be a far better, more holistic, place in which to work for employees of any generation in the workforce. A 2014 Deloitte study also spoke of the importance to Generation Y of culture and career potential over pure monetary reward. While the aspirational and values-oriented culture of the millennial generation are to be admired, Dr Collins did add that these employees were prone to rapid disconnection or disengagement from an organisation and that, by and large, they did not respond well to criticism, although they value regular feedback highly.

“By 2025, the millennial generation will comprise over 75% of the global workforce. They want to work in environments which foster innovative thinking, they want to develop their skills, they want to nurture leadership skills and they want to work for organisations which make a positive contribution to society,” added Dr Collins. She added that tools for employers to use to engage Generation Y include creating meaning and purpose in their work, reinforcing the values and vision of their organisation to them, emphasising opportunity and challenge and showing an interest in their personal career path.

While the challenges of an inter-generational workforce are many, especially when viewed through the prism of companies and organisations seeking to maintain profit margins and operational effectiveness in the face of an economic climate that is still recovering, the benefits of successfully harnessing the power of three generations of effective workers is significant, reflective of the discipline of ‘Baby Boomers’ the work/life balance of ‘Generation X’ and the freedom and flexibility of ‘Generation Y’.

Our next blog from the ‘Future of Work’ Breakfast Masterclass will look at global demographics relating to work and its impact on today’s graduates.

Winning abroad: addressing Ireland’s struggle with foreign languages


A seminar was hosted on October 22nd, in the Royal College of Surgeons, by EIL Ireland on the subject of ‘Ireland’s Struggle with Foreign Languages,’ with input from academia, industry and graduates on the low priority which languages are given within the Irish education system and efforts to address this situation. As an island nation dependent on service industries and overseas markets, the challenge for Ireland is that less than half the EU population know English well enough to be able to communicate. In the world of international business, where the competence of English is increasingly taken for granted, it is companies with additional language capabilities that will enjoy a competitive advantage.

The panel discussion was chaired by Joe Humphreys of the Irish Times and was primarily focused on the forthcoming framework document on foreign languages in Irish education. Much of the discussion revolved around asking at which point pupils and students should be introduced to languages.

Of particular interest to graduates was the contribution of final year TCD Law and German student, Seánie Kylie, who spoke of his experiences of the Irish educational system in terms of languages. “There is too much of an emphasis on the technicalities of languages and not enough on the desirability of languages. There needs to be more of a focus on the appeal of languages as opposed to just the necessity, languages have a history and a culture of their own, reflective of the people that speak them and that’s what we should be highlighting.”

Tony O’Donohoe, Head of Education and Social Policy with IBEC said that while Ireland continued to attract world-class investment in the shape of multinational companies, these companies “are bemoaning the skills shortage in Ireland when it comes to languages. They find it extremely difficult to fill talent gaps with Irish candidates.” He went on to say that the lack of language fluency does not just impact on foreign companies doing business here but also was to the detriment of the development of Ireland’s own export economy. “It’s a fact that 85% of exports from Ireland are from non-national companies. It is vital that Ireland starts growing its indigenous export sector. The lack of languages is a barrier to this, with many SME’s not considering markets where they perceive that there may be a language barrier.” Mr O’Donohoe added that it is incumbent on the educational system, and indeed pupils and students themselves, to being to address this issue, because “75% of the world’s population do not speak English, and only 9% speak it as their first language.” He welcomed the fact that discussion on languages was taking place, adding that it is ‘the elephant in the living room.’

Other speakers at the event included Tanya Flanagan, Communications Officer with One Voice For Languages (OVFL), who spoke of the need for languages to be taught at a much earlier age, while Philippe Milloux, Director of Alliance Francaise, said that there was a definite need to “change the perception of a language as just a school subject.”

EIL Ireland organised the event as part of marking their 50th anniversary in Ireland, with over 30,000 students having taken part in their programmes. The EIL Study Abroad programme primarily focuses on language immersion programmes abroad for post-primary students. EIL say that their experience of running these programmes has given them “very direct experience of the challenges and struggles we face as a nation in relation to foreign language skills.”

For more on how your career can develop with languages, download our ‘Careers with Languages’ publication here, watch our videos on the benefits of languages and visit our languages sector page on gradireland.com. gradireland also has a forthcoming careers with languages fair in UCC on November 6th.

Are you ready for FUSION? How to make your application work.


IntertradeIreland’s Foot In The Door initiative offers a host of dynamic graduate programmes through its FUSION (Science, Engineering and Technology) initiative, with roles available throughout the Republic and Northern Ireland. FUSION roles incorporate a paid placement, of 12 to 18 month duration, with a Postgraduate Diploma in Business and Management, from a selected college. In the FUSION programme, graduates are placed within SME companies to create and develop technologically innovative, commercially targeted products and services and to gain project management experience. Graduates who earn a place on the FUSION programme are supported by both the company and an academic mentor, from a university of college who have specialist expertise in that area.

So how do I get on the FUSION Programme?

The application for FUSION is a two-step process, consisting of an online application form and, if that phase is successful, an interview with the company for whom you wish to work. As is the case with any application process, your application must meet certain basic criteria to be considered for the programme. So take your time, assess what the requirements are and give clear, honest and unambiguous answers in relation to the essential and desirable criteria which are listed for each job description. If you do this properly and make your application straightforward for the person considering it, you put yourself in with a chance right away. As always, don’t forget the basics; grammar, punctuation, spelling and clarity!

Now for the interview…

Since the FUSION programme is all about collaboration; your communication skills, your ‘emotional intelligence’, your project management savvy and your teamwork strengths all come to the fore during the interview process. So make sure you prepare how you can demonstrate these traits before you sit in front of an interview panel. It will also be vital that you clearly show that you understand what the FUSION programme is all about and what its objectives and purposes are, and of course, how much you want to be a part of it. Ensure you have done adequate research on the company too, what they do, what their market position is, what their ambitions are and, if possible, what sort of culture is in place.

It’s also very important to remember that the FUSION programme is not just about a job, postgraduate study is built into each of the FUSION placements. The programme is constructed in this way because all participant companies in FUSION believe in the importance and value of further study within the context of the placement. So ensure you display your motivation to continue to learn and undertake the Diploma in Business & Management, it’s a key part of the interview process.

Learn more about the FUSION programme here and on gradireland.com and find out more about how to create an application that works here.

Last chance for free entry to Ireland’s largest careers fair



There’s less than 24 hours to go before the doors open at the gradireland Graduate Careers Fair 2014, Ireland’s largest careers fair. Doors open at 11am tomorrow at the RDS Simmonscourt, Dublin 4.

With over 120 exhibitors, the 2014 gradireland Graduate Careers fair is a must-attend event, whether you’re seeking a job or are interested in further study. With over 120 exhibitors waiting to talk to you, the fair offers a unique opportunity for you to meet with employers and course providers and gain unique insider knowledge.

We also have a host of informative, engaging seminars throughout the day, designed to aid you in areas such as; creating the right job application, how to stand out in interviews, how to succeeed in assessment centres, or how to study in the USA, to name but a few. Find out what’s on here.

There is currently massive growth in the graduate recruitment sector, and there will be more than 3,000 jobs available on the day at the gradireland Graduate Careers Fair.

Mark Mitchell, gradireland publisher, says: “The ­rebound in graduate employment can be seen in the amount of companies seeking to take on new graduates.

“In 2009, over 40pc of firms surveyed were not ­interested in hiring graduates,” he said.

But Mr Mitchell says this figure has now plummeted to just 5pc.

“In 2011, almost half (47pc) of companies surveyed said that they were recruiting fewer or no graduates because of the economic climate. That figure now stands at just 7.4pc. So, we would urge graduates, and other jobseekers, to come down to the RDS tomorrow and see what recruiters are looking for. With seminars and a Cv Clinic, and all for free, there really is something for everyone on the day.”

Register by midnight on Tuesday, October 7th for free entry, just click here. Bring along either a printout of your ticket or simply show the ticket on your phone to gradireland staff at the door. If you haven’t registered, you can do so on the day and there is a €5 admission fee.

Get involved on the day by joining the discussion on Twitter at #gradfair