What can coops offer Gen Y?

Generation Y – roughly those young people born between the early 1980s and the early 2000s – were the focus of discussion at a workshop at the co-operative...

Generation Y – roughly those young people born between the early 1980s and the early 2000s – were the focus of discussion at a workshop at the co-operative Summit in Quebec led by the international cooperative insurance federation ICMIF. Were there ways that good co-operative employer practices could attract the best from the generation which is now beginning to make its mark in the labour market?

Gen Y is certainly seen as increasingly important in human relations management terms, at least according to the panellists at Quebec, all from ICMIF member firms. Bill McKinney, a senior manager with the US fraternal society (friendly society) Thrivent Financial, said that 30%-40% of his firm’s employees were now Gen Ys, and he maintained that many of them were attracted by Thrivent’s strong business values, based on a Christian approach to financial management. “Being a purpose-driven company is really appealing to them,” he maintained.

Rafael Moliterno Neto, CEO of Brazilian health insurer Seguros Unimed, offered a similar message. He said that surveys in Brazil of the new generation of workers found that their approach to work was already having an effect on the workplace. Gen Ys, he said, were typically less formal in terms of professional relationships but more rational, more confident, more focused and more likely to help each other. And, he added, they often wanted more from their work in terms of satisfaction than their older colleagues.

Not everyone was convinced. Bernie Mitchell, the Senior Vice President with HR responsibility at Canadian insurer The Co-operators, thought the differences could be over-exaggerated. Gen Ys were not necessarily very different in their approach to work that the older Baby Boomer and Gen X cohorts, she said.

But she added that 70% of newly appointed staff at The Co-operators were under 30, and she said her firm was keen to know if they found her firm’s cooperative principles and values particularly attractive when choosing where to apply for work. The Co-operators has adopted a very strong position on sustainability, implemented practically throughout its business operations, and also actively promotes its co-operative business structure. Nevertheless, surveys of new staff suggested that at the time of their appointment a much more powerful factor had been The Co-operators’ reputation for good employment practices.

Bernie Mitchell went on to explain how her firm makes considerable efforts to educate new employees in its culture and values. “When new employees come in, we orientate them to the fact that we are a co-operative organisation and a sustainable organisation, and how our values are different,” she said. “We want to make sure they’re comfortable that they’ve joined the right organisation.”Encouragingly, surveys undertaken with the same workers when they have been six months in post suggests that the induction is working: at that point, Bernie Mitchell said, The Co-operators’ status as a co-operative and sustainable organisation was positively mentioned by the vast majority of respondents.

  • For more updates from the 2014 International Summit of Cooperatives, click here
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