Ben Grefsrud /
By Eve Tahmincioglu contributor
updated 10/14/2007 7:30:22 PM ET 2007-10-14T23:30:22

Warning: If you are a baby boomer or part of Generation X, you might not want to read this column. I’m telling you, folks, it’s going to make you mad.

Today’s workplace is all about Generation Y when it comes to recruiting. At least that’s how employers see it, and they’re beginning to shower this group with perks unheard of by older workers who battled to get their collective feet in the career door.

Companies from an array of industries, everything from auto to health care, are pulling out all the stops to attract these individuals who are technologically savvy, pros at networking, and often self-indulgent although also socially conscious.

Gen Yers — born roughly between 1980 and 2000 — have hit the jackpot. We’re talking flat-screen televisions and iPods, free food for college kids, paid tuition, travel-abroad programs and a host of opportunities to save the planet.

But be sure to look beyond the smoke and mirrors, warns Ilene Wasserman, founder of ICW Consulting Group. "What any company wants is someone to contribute to the bottom line," she says. "You as an employee have to be willing to work."

The scramble by companies is being driven by an impending labor shortage as the baby boom generation reaches retirement age. Also, firms are hoping to bring in younger, more tech-savvy workers to breathe life into stodgy companies trying to figure out how to sell to Gen Yers — all 70 million of them.

"They are going to such great lengths to hire this generation because they have realized traditional recruitment and retention tactics such as money, a title and a training program are no longer good enough to attract and keep the best and brightest Gen Y employees," says Jason Dorsey, author of "My Reality Check Bounced!"

Some companies are hiring groups of friends because they believe Gen Yers need to stay tight with their social network. Others are going right to where Gen Yers live, posting funky videos and company information on sites such as Facebook and YouTube.

Even the Gen Y's "helicopter parents" are getting some props.

"A manager at a civil engineering firm saw that a new Gen Y hire had listed her mom as a reference. He called the new hire’s mom and invited her to be at the company to welcome the new hire to her first day of work," Dorsey explains.  "As the mom went to leave she turned to her daughter and said, ‘You’re not allowed to quit this job. Real companies are not like this.’"

Indeed, real companies, especially stuffy firms from corporate America, never acted like this.

Would a Gen Yer ever think Deloitte & Touche, one of the Big Four accounting firms, is cool?

Yes, says Eric Caudill, a 22-year-old who was recently an intern in Deloitte’s Richmond, Va.,  office.

Deloitte held its first ever online film festival as a way to recruit Gen Y talent, and employees and interns were asked to participate. The theme of the festival was "What’s Your Deloitte?" and about 370 short candid videos were submitted, with the winning entries posted on YouTube.

"They sent us a camera and told us we could do what ever we wanted. It just had to be under three minutes," says Caudill, who along with three other interns made a rap video called "WTBCTB" that ended up a finalist. (See the YouTube video here.)

"I was impressed with their willingness to go outside the box. It was a shocker, but I think it’s perfect. These firms need to change their image and show us that they’re hip and are adapting to change," he explains. "We want to work hard, but we also want to have that other side of us at work, the technology, which is how we express ourselves."

Cathy Benko, managing principal of talent at Deloitte, says, "It was a way for Gen Y workers to talk to Gen Y workers. We were looking to be connected with the means and medium of their generation."

It looks like it paid off. Caudill recently accepted a full-time job with Deloitte, but he’s not being naive.

"There is a concern that once you sign and they have you that all the fun stuff goes away," he notes. But he’s hopeful that won’t happen based on what he’s heard from other employees. Also, he was just invited to a dodgeball tournament at Deloitte, which he takes as a great sign.

"They recognized that there’s more to life than bottom line and balance sheet," he adds.

The reason Jeremy Burton, the CEO of Serena Software, added his profile to Facebook a few months ago is so he can show potential employees that there’s more to his life than work. "If you’re going to attract Gen Y grads you have to understand their world," he says.

Burton, an avid racecar driver, decided to post videos of his racing antics on his Facebook page.

"These guys are from a different generation that thinks a different way, " says Burton, 40.  "The electronic word has replaced the spoken word. You’ve got to embrace that and go with it. This is a revolution. People who fight against the revolution end up pressed against the wall."

Even old-line manufacturers are getting in on Gen-Y mania.

General Motors — which recently endured a two-day strike as it struggles with declining demand — has put a lot of energy into attracting the younger set to its design team.

Bryan Nesbitt, vice president of design for GM in North America, says it’s all about appealing to Gen Y consumers. By hiring younger workers GM hopes to understand what inspires and is relevant to this group.

As part of this effort, GM told 18 of its summer design interns to "create an iconic Chevrolet concept that will appeal to Gen Y."

Michael Weaker, who as a GM intern who participated in the challenge, says, "I was surprised at how excited I was."

"I never imagined myself at a corporation that size, but I was pleasantly surprised at the heavy emphasis GM is putting on aesthetics," says Weaker, who hasn’t decided what job he’ll take when he finishes his masters in design at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn. "I would consider the auto industry now."

Many recruiters say Gen Yers don’t take time to look at a broad range of industries and firms, and that’s why smaller companies such as technology firm Endeca are focusing on getting college kids to help spread the word. "People learn about cool companies less based on research but more on who people are talking about on campus," says Michael White, director of the company.

To get students talking, the company sends candy and pizza to study groups on campus, and sometimes backpacks or comfort food during finals. Last year they sent care packages, including information about Endeca, to candidates’ parents.

They’ve also given out a handful of flat-screen TVs to college students who have accepted offers after they graduate and recommended friends to join the company.

With all the goodies to be had, Gen Yers need to get a reality check.

These companies might promise you the world, but the old-fashioned things, like a good salary and making sure there is room for advancement, should still apply. "Look for companies that invest in their people, training and development," advises Karlin Sloan, CEO of Karlin Sloan & Company, a consulting and executive coaching firm.

So, bottom line: Enjoy the perks, but make sure you take a job you’ll enjoy, that is fulfilling and you’re able to pay the rent. Mom and Dad can’t bankroll you forever.

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