By Melissa J. Anderson

As the competition for for high performing employees grows during the next five to ten years, companies are going to have to work harder to attract the Gen Y workforce. The policies your company implements now plays an important role in building the foundation to recruit and retain this newly important source of human capital.

But it won’t mean business as usual – a new study confirms the view of Gen Y as values-focused, digitally demanding, and flex-work inclined.

What can you do now to attract the workforce of tomorrow? Here are our top five tips.

1. Actively Promote Development Programs

Individuals in this age group value the chance to experience new challenges and ideas. In fact, a new global study entitled “Oxygenz,” [PDF] by German research firm Johnson Controls has revealed that Gen Y individuals are “ready to engage in companies that provide the environments in which they can grow and evolve.” When asked the top reasons to join a company, the number one response was the opportunity to learn.

Does your company provide career counseling or development programs for young workers? Internally, are they enthusiastically promoted and managed, or are they more of an afterthought? Are they well known outside the company? Make sure Gen Y candidates know they will receive career guidance and training at your company.

2. Explain and Implement Flexwork Policies

The study revealed that “While more than 60% of the generation Y prefers a flexible way of working, only less than 25% actually expect their employers to offer it.” Additionally, the report continued, “The right to request flexible working is probably unknown by this generation, while it may be a legal right in countries like in Europe.”

To sum it up – Gen Y wants a flexible work schedule but doesn’t expect it, and doesn’t really know about policies around it. If you want your company to stand out, explain your flexwork system upfront, at the recruiting table. Frame it as a company perk, rather than a humdrum HR policy.

And if your company doesn’t already have a flexwork arrangement in place, you’ll be left behind by the ones that do! Get moving on this important issue.

3. Build Emotional Engagement with the Space

While new technology untethers the workforce from the workplace, you need to ensure the physical and emotional connection is there nonetheless. that “70% of the generation Y respondents prefer to have their own desk and… personalise them. Less than a quarter (18%) are open to share their space with other individuals and even less to access a hot desk or hotel desk while at work.”

So, while flexwork options should exist, Gen Y still expects to have physical place at the office to build that workplace connection. Make sure to address this issue in the office. Don’t assume that just because they are more technologically sophisticated, the next generation will be happy with temporary or shared space. This report shows that Gen Y is just as emotionally invested in the physical space as they are with the work.

4. Make Workspaces Lively

Want to ensure productivity at your company. Make sure there are lots of interesting people around. At least, that’s what the Oxygenz study revealed. It may seem counterintuitive, but according to individuals in the Gen Y age group, having coworkers around boosts productivity and creativity. The top three factors for high productivity are:

1. The people around the workplace

2. The ambiance and atmosphere within the workplace

3. The technology we are provided with

Shifting from an industrial workplace to a service/knowledge based workplace means innovative, strategic, and creative thinking will be vital for successful companies. These results show that tomorrows workforce highly values team-based brainstorming. And this involves more than just people – it also means an environment conducive to collaboration and the right high-tech tools.

5. Green Your Office – No, Really Green

According to the study, Gen Y expects their employer to go beyond minimum regulatory sustainability requirements.

The report says:

70.3% want to have recycling bins

47.4% want water saving devices

52.7% want standby devices on all electrical equipment

71.6% want to share printers in the office

47% want solar panels on site

While installing solar panels on site might not be the easiest thing to accomplish, little things like recycling bins make a big difference to Gen Y retention. If you begin to go the extra step now, it’ll make it easier in the long run!