Monday, August 18, 2008

Faulty methodologies meet Gen-Y

All sorts of people have been trying to figure out how to reach Gen-Y for as long as they've had disposable income. They have encountered some difficulty with this generation in large part because this generation has spent a ridiculous amount of time figure out ways NOT to be reached. They're constantly innovating ways to circumvent unsolicited messages.

One company claiming to be an expert fuelled a recent CNN article that proposes to know how the latest thing in attracting Gen-Y college grads into your workforce. The answer, they claim, is social responsibility.

According to their study, 4 in 5 millenials say they want to work for a company that pays attention to how it affects the world and that 68% said they would refuse to work for an employer that is not socially responsible. That's cute of them.

This is where the problems in the methodology come in. First, they weren't interviewing recently graduated college seniors, soon-to-graduate college seniors, college grads a year out of school who managed to secure their first job, or anyone of the sort. In fact, they didn't even bother with the college freshmen, one of the most idealistic groups known to man. I'm not pointing fingers, I was one of them, too. No, the study was based on INCOMING college freshmen, people who hadn't even gotten as close to the real world as college, people who still have their graduation year painted on the windows of their cars, people still high off the scent of four-color brochures for universities promising hopes and dreams.

In short, they were interviewing people who have absolutely no idea what the real work world is like, and based findings on questions that ask for self report on the aspirations of people who will probably change their majors and average of 3 times before graduating.

The real Gen-Y is happy with pay that's above poverty level, basic health benefits and some semblance of job stability. Why? Because Gen-Y is known as the boomerang generation due to the fact that it's so hard for college grads to find jobs right out of school that most go home to live with their parents for 6-8 months before getting their first job, most of which pay less than a teacher's or nurse's salary until the student gets a few years of experience under his or her belt. And those sorts of salaries don't help much when student loans come calling at several hundred dollars a month.

Perhaps if they did a study of recent grads at 3,6,9 and 12 months out of school, we'd get a better picture for potential employers, because it doesn't matter how many seeds you're donating to plant trees downtown if you're only paying $12.50/hr...if that. What's even better, they only did the study on one class of incoming freshmen at one college in California- hardly what you'd call a satisfactory sample size.

Now, I'm not arguing that given the choice between two equal jobs whose only difference is a measure of corporate conscience, a grad wouldn't choose the socially responsible company to work for. However, if you talk to real recent grads, and take some hard data on where they actually ended up working instead of aspirational self-report, especially in these tough times, you'll find a decent salary, some specter of benefits and the smallest inkling of job security go a lot farther than three Fridays a year off to help Meals on Wheels (a venerable charity, I might add).

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