What to do When It’s Time to Attract Next-generation Associates

July 1, 2006

Your office is bustling with business, but there’s something not quite right with the picture: Most of your customers, like most of your sales associates, are either approaching or beyond middle age; you have no twenty-somethings.

That might be just fine for your market now, but when you consider that Generation Y, the generation born between 1976 and 1994, is 73 million strong and rivals even the baby boomers in size, recruiting and retaining associates from this group is vital to your company’s long-term health. So how do you recruit them?

For starters, understand that people in this generation have four overwhelming generational attributes, or what consultants call “markers”:

  1. They’re used to being praised and made to feel important.
  2. They’re more than technology-literate, they’re “technofused.”
  3. They’re civic-minded.
  4. They’re as close to color and race blindness as any generation has been.

Here’s how real estate generational consulting specialist John Ansbach, vice president of RECON Intelligence Services in Dallas, suggests you incorporate these markers into your recruiting and retention efforts:


  • Communicate with GenY’s using the latest technology. Instead of calling or sending them a letter for, say, a follow-up interview, use text messaging. That demonstrates your company’s technological proficiency.
  • Tout your company’s involvement in the community through its charitable programs, and encourage them to get involved and maybe even take a leadership role in your company’s efforts.


  • Offer them a chance to shine and feel they can make a contribution right away by asking them to head up a committee or focus group looking into a business issue. “This isn’t a generation that feels like it has to spend years paying its dues before it gets meaningful assignments,” says Ansbach.
  • Conduct your training and sales meetings in a nonlinear format. One way to do that is by projecting a live Internet connection on a screen in your meeting room and, where appropriate, exploring answers to audience questions online during class. If you’re talking about new do-not-call rules, for example, surf the regulator’s Web site and look at the site’s FAQs on the rules.
  • In what Ansbach calls an “I’ll trade you” program, give them a chance to mentor an older associate on technology matters in exchange for the older associate’s insights on business development. You act like a matching service that brings the two together.
  • Maintain the latest and best technology, because they won’t settle for less. “If you’re a Treo company, be sure you have the best Treo,” says Ansbach. “If you use Microsoft, be sure you have the latest edition of Windows XP, not Windows 98.”
  • Live diversity; don’t just make it a policy. This generation, in which whites comprise only one-third of the population, are beyond political correctness. They came of age understanding diversity as a matter of course, which may make it easier for them to judge others based on merit rather than on ethnicity, race, religion, or color of skin, says Ansbach. If your efforts to diversify aren’t seen as authentic but as a policy to appear politically correct, they’ll notice and leave.

No generation can be universally pegged to stereotypes, but these markers make a great starting point for effectively bringing in recruits from this age cohort. “Gen Y members have very specific shared experiences—they’ve lived technology from the day they were born, for instance,” Ansbach says. “And you can’t ignore these experiences if you want them in your company.”

Robert Freedman

Robert Freedman is the former director of multimedia communications at NAR.