Gen X, it’s time to ask yourselves Y

All too often, clients reach out to us and ask: ‘Why are Generation Y so lazy, so entitled, so non-committal, and seemingly, so hard to attract? They just will not apply for our jobs!’ To them, the candidates in estate agency are wholly to blame for seemingly dismissing out of hand that which the clients themselves would have jumped at – industry perks such as bonuses, good commissions, and company cars. Stunned by this discrepancy, they are unwilling to try and understand the reasons for this. The natural consequence is that these Generation X employers are not currently adjusting their estate agency businesses and vacancies to accommodate the changing demands of the current workforce. This needs to be done, and the only way to do it is to realise that the onus is on you to make a change, not expect an entire generation to easily fit the existing and, in some cases, outdated mould.

After all, the cost of living has gone up, yet basic salaries have hardly risen in the estate agency industry. Since this work is now less financially rewarding, “millennials feel [their job] should at least be fulfilling or it simply isn’t worth it” (Sofia Niazi, 29, quoted in the Guardian - 2016). 

This fulfilment arises firstly from flexible working days and hours, which allows for much-desired autonomy, as well as indicating an employer who has faith in the worker to manage their own time. Flexible hours also allow for ‘work-life integration’, a term used to describe the meeting of work and social life, hobbies etc., and something which 88% of millennials said that they wanted (Intelligence Group study of millennials, Jamie Gutfreund, reported in Forbes – 2014). The estate agency industry has unfortunately been slow to catch on in this regard.

Connected with this is Generation Y’s desire for a relaxed working environment, where jackets and ties are binned. Not unreasonably, they want to be trusted to be able to do their job without needing to project a formalized image of themselves. This is a huge issue for the property industry, which desperately needs to modernize in terms of dress codes, merely as a starting point. Millennials also don’t want to sit in an office for 10 hours a day to do work that could possibly be done from home, or even while commuting with their phone or laptop. Their accessibility to work is different, and the environment needs to change to reflect this new freedom and technology.

Moreover, for the last 30 years, estate agency has been an attractive prospect to young employees, but is now losing out to modern and exciting companies, such as media giants Google and LinkedIn (both with offices in London). These jobs in media sales / digital marketing require largely the same entry-level skills as estate agency, but provide a much more forward-thinking, collaborative environment. Although seemingly trivial, these companies’ decisions to have pool tables and TVs somewhere in the office space help young employees to feel far less disengaged; the company seems to care about helping them to have an enjoyable, as well as productive, time at the company. At such companies, breakfast is often laid on for free, or at a minimal cost to the employee.

Along with this, Generation Y wants to profit in some way from their job aside from monetarily. They need to feel as though they are growing themselves and developing their skills, ready to use them to embrace new challenges. This means that in property, every job for under 25’s should be treated like a graduate scheme, where employees are exposed to different markets and provided with different opportunities through spending, say, 6-12 months in lettings, 6-12 months in sales, and 6-12 months in new homes and developments. By recognizing millennials’ need to move on from a company, employers can start to give them a universal bedrock for an industry, rather than assigning them with a single-track role designed simply to help the company make profit. In this way, new recruits will not be made to feel uninvolved and anonymous, but to feel as though the company cares about giving back what the worker puts in.  

In order to do this, property companies need to make vacancies sound attractive. They need to give millennials reasons to choose the sector and, indeed, their company, over others, perhaps by impressing them at the interview. We’ve written a blog on this very topic that may be of interest: Click here

Clearly, to negatively stereotype millennials is to misunderstand how they differ from you as a client and from their parents; complaining won’t do any good for your hiring process. What will help, however, is recognizing Generation Y as different, and then making the effort needed to accommodate that difference.


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