Employers seem to be polarised by Generation Y – denial versus acceptance, excitement versus dread, opportunity versus threat. One thing is certain; ignore them at your peril! I predict that it is this group that will transform the way business is carried out for many generations to come.

The skinny-jeaned wearing, iPhone-toting demographic are more technologically savvy than any other generation, but also highly creative.  They are environmentally conscious yet highly mobile.  They expect instant rewards but also demand development for the long term. They think like entrepreneurs but tend to value relationships over money. This conundrum is challenging for employers, but the key is to find out how to unlock their potential and develop them in to the managers and leaders of the future.

Generation Y, aged somewhere between 18 and 30 are the first working-age generation to be innately technological. The omnipresence of technology has strongly influenced the way they perceive employment, valuing more open and alternative recruitment channels, including social media. With 53% of the UK accessing the web from a mobile, and this trend increasing as you move down the age range, it has a stark implication for all organisations on the recruitment trail.

People access everything on the go–including jobs and with more devices connected to the internet than there are people on Earth it is clear just how important mobile has become. Anywhere from 50 – 70% of all job seekers are searching for new jobs on a mobile device. Having the internet at your fingertips 24:7 has become a social norm to the next generation of talent, injecting speed, convenience and immediacy into the recruitment process. This not only means that the recruitment system adopted by a company needs to work on all mobile platforms but, also that the process needs to feel ‘nimble’.

With a much more optimistic approach Generation Y feel that they are likely to get a job even in tougher job markets and using social media is an imperative part of the job hunt. Before interviewing, Generation Y members are more likely to follow and interact with the company’s social media profiles over older generations and will be more prepared for the introduction of video interviews into application processes.

Generation Y view a job not just as a means to get by, rather a route to exploring their passions, desires and philosophies. They have an increasingly holistic outlook on the world, compared to other generations in the past, thinking with their feet. They represent 22% of the workforce, yet nearly half of all graduates leave jobs within two years with the resulting recruitment, retention and management implications.

For a typical employee a structured and planned career ladder is an essential tool, whereas Generation Y has developed more of a career lattice. This generation do not have the same linear career expectations as their predecessors. This does not mean they are not ambitious, but it highlights that they are attracted to companies with strong values, social ethics, distinctive brands and non-hierarchical environments.

Confidence levels in general are high within Generation Y and they want to tell you what they are thinking and they are undeterred by traditional hierarchy. They have no issues in stating that they feel mistrust, are being over looked or simply that the technology is not as efficient as it should be in comparison to that of competitors.

As I have already expressed, Generation Y are happy to think with their feet – hungry for stimulation and to be challenged, whereas other generations respect loyalty and connections. Development is hugely important to Generation Y and, in fact, they would expect significant contribution from their employer in this area.  Structuring their learning and development by using approaches that will support their individualism, provide variety and be meaningful will likely have the best results. They are bright people who have a great deal to offer providing they are stimulated, so there is a significant up-side for a company if they can tap in to Generation Y effectively.

Generation Y, respond well to constructive management and charismatic leadership. Bureaucratic organisations where decision making is slow and autocratic, and where seniority outweighs contribution will not wash with this generation. They are looking for collaboration, mutual respect and to connect with meaning with their managers and leaders.

Engaging and developing Generation Y employees may seem like an onerous task, but they are more diverse and creative that other generations before them and increase much needed diversity within organisations. Businesses are going to have to adapt to some extent if they wish to engage and grow their talent from within.

Charles Hipps, CEO of WCN, the UK’s leading e-Recruitment software provider