The New Generation: Attracting, developing and retaining a new workforce

Here’s an interesting fact. By 2011 more than 60 percent of all client-serving personnel at Ernst & Young will be from Generation Y. That’s the generation -” born between 1977 and 1994 -” that has a very different perspective on what the workplace should look like and offer. It’s also a more diverse group than any previous generation in America.

Many companies face similar employee statistics. So examining how Ernst & Young continues to educate, develop, attract and retain this new and diverse workforce is more important today than ever before.

To shed light on generational myths and better understand the priorities of its multigenerational personnel, Ernst & Young conducted a comprehensive survey of its own employees. The survey was just one of many initiatives the firm has taken to help foster a culture that meets the needs of its changing workforce.

“We’ve invested a lot of time and resources to understand multigenerational workplace issues,” said Dave Hoogendoorn, Ernst & Young’s Grand Rapids office managing partner. “Knowing what motivates our younger professionals and what they’re passionate about -” both personally and professionally -” enables us to create programs that meet their unique needs.”

Some of the innovative programs that have helped Ernst & Young gain a competitive advantage in attracting and developing Generation Y professionals are highlighted below.

High-tech Connections
Ernst & Young has made great strides in reaching campus candidates through media that are fun and meaningful to them. In 2006, Ernst & Young launched the Ernst & Young Careers page on Facebook ( It gives students the chance to “fan” Ernst & Young’s page, post their questions about careers and opportunities and link up with peers, interns and Ernst & Young professionals. The firm was the first Big Four organization on Facebook and now has over 21,000 fans. Ernst & Young’s use of social networking helps instill the importance of networking overall -” which will be important to new hires’ success when they join the firm.

EYU is committed to providing all of its professionals with the right learning, experiences, coaching and related resources to achieve their potential. Ernst & Young does this through EYU, the firm’s global career development framework that gives all professionals access to the opportunities that best support their development. By providing the right learning, work experiences and coaching, Ernst & Young professionals develop quicker and achieve their potential. This, in turn, helps them make a difference to Ernst & Young clients, its business and the firm’s wider communities. Standing for “Ernst & Young & You,” EYU reflects a mutual commitment of the firm’s support for its people, and its people’s responsibility to take ownership of their personal development.

International Intern Leadership Conference
Each summer, more than 1,700 Ernst & Young interns from around the globe gather for the annual International Intern Leadership Conference in Orlando, Fla. This unique event gives students the opportunity to network, participate in team challenges and community service projects, hear presentations from global firm leaders and attend strategic breakout sessions. Through this experience, these future professionals gain a deeper understanding of Ernst & Young, the profession and their career path.

Going Mobile
Ernst & Young encourages and rewards geographic and service-line mobility. These new experiences build skills and allow professionals to grow in multiple dimensions. For example, the Resource Sharing Program offers international experience to professionals who are in the early stages of their careers. Through the program, younger professionals can take three to six-month assignments in other countries where they can further develop their technical and soft skill sets.

Corporate Responsibility
Ernst & Young combines skills-based volunteerism and charitable giving to drive meaningful change. Whether Ernst & Young’s professionals are mentoring students in a local school or working with entrepreneurs in an emerging market, their activities are fundamental to the firm’s public purpose. And these activities help all professionals develop leadership skills and strengthen their ability to collaborate with people from diverse backgrounds.

For some of our professionals, community engagement means taking a three-month sabbatical through Ernst & Young’s Corporate Responsibility Fellows Program. Through this program, the firm dedicates its best resources to improving the success of promising entrepreneurs in underserved communities in Central and South America.

Focused on Multigenerational Diversity
While making strategic investments to attract, educate and develop Gen Y professionals, Ernst & Young also remains focused on ensuring its multigenerational workforce works cohesively. Last year, Ernst & Young’s Midwest practice launched a series of panel discussions focused on workplace generational diversity issues. These candid, interactive discussions are raising people’s awareness of generational preferences and providing tips to help bridge generation gaps. Now viewed as a national best practice, similar panel discussions are taking place in Ernst & Young offices and client locations across the U.S.

“Ernst & Young’s greatest asset is our people. And each night our assets go home,” said Hoogendoorn. “My goal is continue to provide the career-building opportunities our young professionals need and value so Ernst & Young is the place they want to come back to every day.”

Jackie Lillie is an assistant director in the Grand Rapids office of Ernst & Young, a global leader in assurance, tax, transaction and advisory services. Ernst & Young was the elite winner in the Employee Education and Development category for West Michigan’s 101 Best and Brightest Companies to Work For. She can be reached at [email protected].