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Generation Y Marketing and Recruiting: 5+ Tips

Six Generation Y sitting on a brick wall, using their smart phones.

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Generation Y has become a challenging market for many businesses in the restaurant, retail, and hospitality industries.

This generation is very different from previous generations, and, to successfully market to them, you must find ways to appeal to their unique needs and wants. The same is true for successfully recruiting and motivating Gen-Y employees.

Below, I’ll explain important details you need to know about marketing to Gen-Y and how to recruit them into your business.

What is Generation Y?

Generation Y, often shortened to Gen Y, consists of people born between the years 1980 and 2000. Gen-Yers are also known as millennials because they became adults around the time of the millennium.


With over 70 million individuals, Gen-Yers make up the largest generational group in the U.S. That’s a big piece of the pie your business could be profiting from!

This generation is more ethnically diverse, socially conscious, and more accepting of alternative lifestyles than past generations. Because these individuals are socially conscious, green/organic marketing is very successful with them, which makes TimeForge’s paperless, eco-friendly quality appealing. Gen-Yers appreciate philanthropy and works that benefit the social good.

Going green

At the time this post was originally published in 2010, Gen-Yers were already spending $100 per week on disposable spending (money spent on wants, not needs), which accounted for $150 billion dollars annually!

For older individuals, that’s money spent primarily on things like food, drinks, and convenience. The vast majority of their money is allocated towards entertainment that the restaurant, retail, and hospitality industries provide.

How to successfully market to Generation Y

In order to successfully market to Generation Y, you must first understand their appreciation of, and attachment to, technology. Gen-Yers are sometimes referred to as “digital natives” due to their earnest adoption of personal computing devices.

According to a study by Forrester Research, Gen Y-ers are estimated to spend 20 billion dollars online per year. The ability to order out, make reservations, and check out a new restaurant/retail establishment online is of vital importance to them.

If your business doesn’t offer these kinds of online interactive capabilities, you could be losing out on a lot of potential customers.

Additionally, if you don’t have an online system for employees in place, you could be losing out on a large number of Generation Y employees, who prefer the ease of features like text message reminders before shifts, online availability editing, shift swapping, schedule viewing from their PCs, or internet-enabled phones, and more.

Gen-Yers are tech savvy

Four hands holding cell phones.

In 2010, about 90% of Generation Y-ers already had a personal computer, and over half had internet on their mobile devices. Not surprisingly, Gen-Yers are heavily dependent on smartphones and often prefer to send text messages rather than make a phone call.

With this technology, Gen Y-ers base their decisions for making purchases on different criteria than the generations before them.

Social media such as Facebook and Twitter play a huge role in Gen Y-ers’ lives and how they interact with their friends and family, which is why TimeForge is accessible from mobile phones, Facebook, and text message.

Not only will having pages on sites like these and integrating with social media and mobile phone capabilities increase your relevance to Generation Y, but Gen Y-ers are notorious for publicizing every aspect of their lives.

Tip: If you have an easily linked-to Facebook page or website, it makes it easy for Gen-Yers to tell their friends/followers about your business and the experience they had. And, as demonstrated by the Forrester study, clearly Gen Y-ers (as well as other generations!) are responsive to tips from friends.

Effective advertising among Gen-Y

Nearly 60% of Gen Y-ers often tell their friends about products and places that interest them, indicating that word-of-mouth or “buzz” advertising is effective with this group.

Additionally, nearly 50% of Gen Y-ers (as well as Gen X-ers) agree that price is more important to them than brand names.

Generation Y has a dramatically higher percentage of “Creators,” or trend starters, meaning that they enjoy being the first to discover new places, trends, and more. Generation Y’s percentage of “Joiners,” or individuals who hop on the trend bandwagon, is more than double that of other generations.

A person wearing a VR headset.
Generation Y are comfortable trying new tech.

This means that Gen Y-ers are not only eager to discover and patronize new establishments, but they’re excited about being involved in a marketing “buzz.” Where earlier generations were skeptical of marketing ploys, Gen Y-ers enthusiastically embrace and assist them.

Generation Y-ers care about the “cool” factor. Companies like Apple and Target became extremely successful in marketing to Generation Y (particularly Gen Y’s “Joiners”) because they focused on marketing their brands as young, hip, and fun. These businesses used trendy indie or popular music in their advertisements, tout their sustainability practices and philanthropic initiatives, and made their brand relatable to people in the Generation Y age group.

Generation Y is hip

So, what does all this mean for your business? It means that in order to successfully market to Generation Y, your business must institute:

  1. Social media pages in order to connect with and inform Generation Y. In addition to a Facebook page for your business, TimeForge is accessible from Facebook, keeping your Gen Yers in-the-know, in their element.
  2. Integrate with online technology as much as possible. (For example, online ordering and reservations.)
  3. Put as much online buzz-worthy marketing out there as possible. If you post it, they will re-post/re-tweet, etc.
  4. Give your brand a “cool” factor. Your business should seem hip, socially conscious, and fun. TimeForge manages Gen-Yers in a way they can understand and relate to more than ever before, which will boost staff morale and your employees’ opinions of the business (which this generation is enthusiastic about repeating to others).
  5. Last, but not least: Tout your Green or philanthropic endeavors. If you don’t have any, getting some should be a priority. By simply adding TimeForge to your business’ labor management, our Green product will virtually eliminate the need for paperwork and give your company something Green to add to your list of Gen Y-approved qualities.

That said, let’s take a closer look at how the characteristics of Gen-Yers play into hiring and recruiting.

How to recruit Generation Y employees

Turnover within the restaurant, retail, and hospitality industries has been on the rise. Low pay is a major contributor to the problem, but what else can businesses do to improve their turnover and their labor costs?

Employers should improve their recruiting strategies to take advantage of Generation Y’s characeteristics. TimeForge’s labor management products can assist with strategies to hook the enthusiastic and hard-working Gen Y-ers, in addition to keeping them happy, informed, and fulfilled by their work.

Individuals who are part of Generation Y are especially peer-influenced, so keep in mind:

  • recruiters should be close to their age, and
  • advertisements should appeal to their interests.

It’s important to highlight your business’s philanthropy and responsibility during recruiting, because, as I mentioned earlier, Gen Y-ers are especially concerned about the environment, social justice, and various conservation and humanitarian issues.

It’s important to contribute toward (and emphasize to prospective employees and the community) the kind of charities that hit home with Generation Y. You may also want to consider offering VTO to your employees, as well.

The role of technology in Gen-Y recruitment

Reliance on smartphones

An understanding of Generation Y’s appreciation and attachment to technology will help you better recruit and manage members of this demographic. The online and interactive labor management TimeForge provides is easy to use and appealing to Gen-Yers, who have grown up comfortable with computers.

In addition to the appeal of online schedule viewing, shift-swapping, training/certification reminders, and more, when it comes to applying for jobs, Generation Y prefers to submit their resume/application online.

The importance of online applications

TimeForge makes it easy to compile and store online applications with our applicant tracking system, which will have you onboarding the most qualified applicants with minimal time and effort.

The amount of retailers accepting online applications has increased exponentially within the past 20 years, so if your business isn’t offering a digital application process, it’s likely that you’re losing out on potential job candidates.

Coffee and convenience

In a 2007 pilot program, McDonald’s installed computer kiosks to accept employee applications in 40 of its restaurants. The number of applicants at those restaurants jumped by as much as 100 percent. At one McDonald’s in College Station, Texas, the employee turnover rate also was reduced by more than 20 percent, according to an article by Andrew Tilin.

By using TimeForge, your business could enjoy similar turnover reduction and employee retention.

Generation Y cares about convenience and social consciousness

Gen Y-ers appreciate the ability to apply quickly, easily, and impersonally while in casual clothes. You can use this to kill two birds with one stone (or grow two plants with one seed, if you prefer a more positive analogy).

Offering online application and resume submission also eliminates a great deal of the necessary paperwork that comes with accepting applications and hiring new employees, which not only makes things simpler for management and corporate (where applicable) but it’s a start towards Generation-Y-luring “Green” initiatives.

TimeForge can drastically reduce the need for paperwork with our online products that feature document/certification uploading and storage, employee on-boarding, and employee management to assist in a transition to a more “Green” company.

In short, TimeForge can help your business better appeal to Generation Y, which can help increase your number of applicants, reduce your turnover, and allow you to better manage your entire labor staff, regardless of generation.

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