CAREERS: Tuned in to youth


GENERATION Y: Graduan Aspire 2012 survey reveals that young workers relate best to organisations that listen to them

INTERNATIONAL Business undergraduate Hanis Zulkarnain (not her real name) has one more year to complete her studies but she is already shopping around for the right organisation to join.

Her ideal future employer is one which will allow her to carve out a career in banking while she pursues her passion for conserving wildlife.

“I am looking for a workplace where I can receive mentoring to reach my professional goals. Working for an organisation that is concerned about wildlife would be an added bonus,” says the 20-year-old, who is eyeing a job in Maybank.

Hanis joins a long list of undergraduates who hope to be a part of the banking institution, which was voted most preferred employer in a survey last year by Graduan Aspire. The results were announced recently.

This is the second year that the financial group topped the list, which features employers picked by young Malaysians.

Sime Darby Berhad, Petronas and PwC Malaysia also ranked highly in the survey.

Held since 2010, Graduan Aspire is Malaysia’s talent networking fair supported by 70 renowned participating organisations.

The two-day event at the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre last June attracted about 15,000 local and foreign job seekers.

Some 14,000 of them completed registration forms that required them to name up to six of their favourite companies.

The  study was aimed at helping organisations learn how young talents perceive their brands and measure their popularity with talents from different backgrounds.

Graduan managing director Elia Talib says: “We hope employers will be able to gain a better insight into what young people place emphasis on when it comes to their career choices through our study”.

“This will give them an advantage in terms of attracting, motivating and retaining young talents, especially those who are highly sought after,” she adds.

Respondents nominated more than 700 organisations. The 50 most popular ones were highlighted and divided into several categories such as Accounting, Business, Engineering, Information Technology and the Sciences to reflect the respondents’ disciplines.

Survey participants also shared their opinions on various matters pertaining to employment, including the factors that determine a preferred employer, job-search methods and reasons for staying with an organisation.

Maybank proved to be a strong brand, especially among those who are pursuing Business, Accounting, IT and the Sciences, while PwC Malaysia was the first choice for Accountancy students.

Science students, on the other hand, voted Sime Darby as the most desirable organisation. It came second on the preferred employer’s list after receiving nominations from students of all backgrounds.

It is no coincidence that the three corporations are household names among the young — they pay close attention to the voices of Generation  Y workers. They rely on surveys to give them an “indication of the market’s perception of their employment value proposition”.

As Maybank group human capital head Nora Manaf puts it: “This is to ensure that we run a 21st century business with 21st century workplace practices and programmes.”

The group cares about what the Millennials — as Gen Ys are also known — have to say no matter where they are in the world.

“In Indonesia last year, we collaborated with a marketing and branding research consultant to conduct a survey on Gen Ys to get a deeper understanding of the young people there.

“It was designed to understand their preferences in a potential employer and targeted at more than 400 university students and fresh graduates,” says Nora.

PwC Malaysia head of resourcing Mona Abu Bakar stresses the importance of such studies.

Mona says: “As we grapple with the complexities of managing a multigenerational workforce, surveys like that of Graduan Aspire and our own (Millennials at Work) are useful in helping employers to understand Gen Y, and craft inclusive people policies and plans that would bring out the best in our people.”

Such studies help employers determine the common ground between the Millennials and generations before them when it comes to their expectations of work.

Nora says: “Gen Ys want empowerment to do their job well, to have the right tools and technology, to work for an organisation that is socially responsible with a clear sense of direction and a well-formulated business strategy from management.

“While we recruit young talents differently, what retains them is similar to what makes employees (of other generations) stay in a job.”

Mona believes that winning the hearts of Gen Y workers takes more than introducing dress down Fridays — where employees come to work in jeans — and engaging them through social media.

“Yes, we do use concepts such as meme (an image or video that is passed electronically from one Internet user to another) and keep up with trends in the youth space. But more importantly, we invest in engaging them on a regular basis through campus outreach. Long-term working relationships, collaborations and mentoring are important,” she adds.

Building rapport with young people, youth and student associations and institutions of higher learning has been a tried and tested method for Sime Darby, too.

“We attract graduate entry-level hires through sponsorship of studies via our foundation, Facebook, campus engagement with selected local and overseas institutions, management trainee programme and internships,” says Normalis Mohd Sharif, who is the head of resourcing and organisational development of the group’s human resource department.

The branding strategy seems to work at least on Hanis Zulkarnain, who admits that her choice in future workplace stems from her participation in activities conducted by the financial institution when she was young.

“Knowing that they promote corporate social responsibility makes them all the more alluring as a potential employer.”

A Generation Y employee of PwC Malaysia mentors a group of secondary school students. Working for a socially responsible organisation is a deciding factor in choosing employers for young talents.

Normalis Mohd Sharif (left) and Mona Abu Bakar.

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