How to Recruit and Retain the Best Young Security Employees

Today's youngest generation of workers, known as Generation Y, have different career goals than their parents did. What do you need to know to get them to work for you?

The final installment in a series of articles about generational differences and security. Part one looked at managing workers in different age groups. Part two examined the types of security concerns that are most commonly associated with different generations in the general workforce. This article provides recruiting and retention advice for security employees.

As a manager, you want to recruit and retain the best talent out there. As a security professional, you want employees you can trust. In today's recruiting environment, finding workers that fit that bill is a whole new game versus what it was just a decade ago.

Like all organizations, you want fresh talent that is both smart and loyal. Learning what makes the youngest generation of employees tick is what will give you an edge over competitors, according Lisa Orrell, a generation relations expert and founder of the Orrell Group, a California-based consultancy. This is especially key now as many Baby Boomers, which represent 40 percent of the workforce, will be retiring in the coming decade.

"Companies that don't click with younger workers will find themselves with high levels of turnover and will have a hard time maintaining growth," said Orrell.

Generation Y (those born after 1980, also known as Millennials) represent the biggest force entering the working ranks since the Baby Boomers. By many estimates, Generation Y accounts for about 80 million workers.

So what do they want? According to recent research, this generation is not all that different from previous generations in some ways. For starters, they want money. In a survey conducted by research from Robert Half International and Yahoo! HotJobs, the number one career concern for Gen Y is their compensation and benefits, with salary and healthcare/retirement benefits as their top priority. Job stability and career satisfaction rounded out the top three with 26 percent and 23 percent respectively.

Cool tools and big rewards

Money and job stability have always been a factor and not always something you have control over as a hiring manager. But what can companies do to enhance that career satisfaction category? Provide them with all of the new tools and technology they need to do their job, said Bill Wipprecht, chief security officer with Wells Fargo, who manages a staff of 325 in his corporate security department.

"This new generation is smarter than ever," said Wipprecht. "Many are so tech savvy, by the time they get here they are up and running on all of our internal systems within days."

Millennials are at ease with technology and not only expect, but demand to be able to use it, on the job. Companies that don't have the tools will be seen as archaic to a twenty-something employee. Bonus points will go to companies that are developing a technology or platform and make employees part of the process. After all, it was Gen Y genius that lead to Web 2.0 technologies such as Facebook and YouTube. And those young entrepreneurs quickly became millionaires, rather than working for 30 years for their wealth.

"The rewards are so much greater now among the younger generations," said Wipprecht. "That has raised their expectations significantly."

Sure, most companies won't be able to offer workers the chance to get in on the ground floor of a multi-million dollar venture. But while Baby Boomers, often the parents of Generation Y, expected to work for a company for many years before getting big bucks and big promotions, these younger workers want opportunity and mobility now.

"There is the question of what can they get out of it for their career?" said Bruce Larson, security director with American Water, a Vorhees, NJ-based tap water supply company. "And when you are talking about hiring IT security professionals, that becomes paramount."

Companies may want to consider mentoring programs, as well as educational opportunities, so Millennials can feel they are getting something more than just money out of being with their company.

"Boomers wanted to make sure they weren't losing their job. Gen Xers wanted to know 'How am I doing?' at my job. Now Gen Y wants to know 'Why am I doing this job?'" said Roberta Chinsky Matuson, president of Human Resource Solutions, a Massachusetts-based firm that regularly advises corporations on generational differences.

And there may be some shock managers have to deal with among new hires who are disappointed that their new job is not what they envisioned it would be. Popular culture, including such TV programs as 'CSI' and 'Law & Order,' have given security-related fields a boost.

"Many Millennials who are in their early 20's did watch these types of programs in high school," said Orrell. "There has been more interest in younger people pursuing these types of careers."

A number of colleges and universities have added programs to keep pace with demand for degrees in areas like forensic science and criminal justice. But the actual day-to-day requirements of the job might not be exactly what new hires had in mind when the decided to pursue the career.

"Certainly the backlash is that they saw crimes being solved in 'glamorous' settings in an hour," noted Orrell. "So it will be interesting to see how many of these Millennials actually stick with their professions once they see the true reality."

Offer praise and frequent feedback

The same poll from Robert Half and Yahoo HotJobs also found over 60 percent of Millennials said that they wanted to hear from their managers at least once a day. This might be a very different style of performance review than experienced managers are used to. But not only do they want to know how they are doing, they want to be told in a nice way, said Orrell, who admits this often has managers rolling their eyes when she holds coaching seminars.

"The main thing to abandon is that curt approach many Boomer managers have had over the years," she said. "That does not play well with Millennials. They are looking for someone sensitive, compassionate and understanding."

Orell said Millennials have been raised in a culture of respect where there opinion was valued and have no intention of abandoning their value system on the job. For many companies, it can be a tough adjustment.

"They grew up in the 'Soccer Mom' age where every kid gets a trophy, every kid gets to be president," said Wipprecht. "Work may be the first time any one actually says no to them."

Wipprecht said while Gen Y won't tolerate harsh behavior from a manager, companies need to find a balance and make sure they aren't sugarcoating reviews either.

"False praise is phony," said Wipprecht. "Employees don't need fictious praise—it has no value to it, and they know that."

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Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.

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