The Pulse of Gen Y in India: An Exploratory Study on Dimensions of Employer Attractiveness.

AuthorKumar, Payal


Job applicants' perceptions of employer attractiveness are formed from several sources including company portals, job advertisements, social media posts and employees' opinions. In a hypercompetitive j ob market in which firms compete for talent in various ways--including aspiring for 'the best employer' accolade (Dineen & Allen, 2016)--a deep understanding of employer attraction by job applicants is critical for a firm's success (Styven, Nappa, Mariani & Nataraajan, 2022).

Several studies have been conducted in this area. For example, in the literature so far, an employer attractiveness scale has been developed (Berthon, Ewing & Hah, 2005) and also dimensions of employer attractiveness have been proposed, such as symbolic and instrumental attributes (Lievens & Highhouse, 2003). However, there is a noticeable dearth of studies on the predictors of application attraction in terms of the distinct categories of both employer attractiveness and also the dimensions that may prove unattractive.

This study makes a unique contribution by studying employer attractiveness from the point of view of Gen Y employees in India by drawing on Herzberg's two-factor motivation-hygiene theory (1966), according to which independent predictors lead to job satisfaction and dissatisfaction. Thus, unlike earlier studies on employer attractiveness which have focused largely on motivators (only), this study dwells on demotivators as well. It is imperative to understand both sides of the coin, given that Gen Y is prone to leaving jobs because of small gains and minor discomforts (Arora & Dhole, 2019).

Heeding the call of human resource scholars who are increasingly suggesting that deep insight into cultural nuances and national contextualization is imperative to understand a phenomenon (Kumar, 2018; Thite, 2020), this study focuses on the aspirations of early career stage Gen Y, (1) or millennials in India, a cohort that represents about half of the working population in India (Pricewaterhouse Coopers, 2011). (2) India is known to be one of the fastest growing economies in South Asia that constantly attracts multinationals and that boasts of one of the largest young workforces in the world.

This study makes an important contribution to the literature on employer attractiveness by suggesting that Gen Y and HR executives have significant differences in perceptions of which factors constitute dissatisfiers and satisfiers in terms of salary and financial rewards as well as company culture. Furthermore, a theoretical contribution has been made by problematizing assumptions of the two-factor theory and questioning the generalizability of the theory as per the cultural milieu of the Indian context.

Literature Review

Employer branding is at the confluence of marketing and human resource management (HRM). An employer brand is "a generalised recognition for being known among key stakeholders to provide a highquality employment experience, and a distinctive organizational identity which employees value, engage with, and feel confident and happy to promote to others" (Martin, Gollan & Grigg, 2011). A strong employer brand is said to lead to several positive outcomes, including competitive advantage, internalizing a firm's cultural values, and instilling pride in the firm, which in turn promotes employee retention (Conference Board, 2001).

Backhaus and Tikoo (2004) suggest that employer branding strategies develop an image of the organization in the minds of potential applicants through brand associations, the reinforcement of which creates an attraction for the organization. Employer attractiveness refers to perceptions about a firm's characteristics and possible benefits that potential employees could obtain by working at that firm (Reis, Braga, Trullen, 2017).

One of the early studies in the Indian literature suggests that the firm's vision and mission, leadership, and overall performance management are considered by management as the attributes most important for attracting talent, whereas for the applicant, the family's positive perception of the firm is an important consideration (Kapoor, 2010). More recent studies suggest that both market and social values are perceived as priorities in India (Ahmad, Khan, & Haque, 2020; Kashive, Khanna & Bharthi, 2020), so much so that those in the workforce are more drawn to firms that are listed in best employer surveys (Prajapati & Patel, 2017).

In an exploratory study of a sample of postgraduate management students and working managers in North India, a caring and enabling organization was found to be a predictor of employer attractiveness (Bhatnagar & Srivastava, 2008). In yet another study of business school students in Delhi and the North Central Region of India, job aspirants were more attracted to jobs in the private sector, with key considerations being the stability of the company, job security, and a balanced work-life interface. Yet another study confirms the preference for jobs in private companies, with HUL (an FMCG company), seen to be the most attractive (Gupta, Patti & Marwah, 2014).

What does the literature say about how best a firm in India can brand itself to attract and retain its best talent? Infosys Technologies (awarded the Best Employer award eight times from 2001 to 2010) does so by implementing corporate social responsibility activities as part of external branding and nurturing leaders through its Infosys Leadership Institute as part of its internal branding (Makwana & Dave, 2014). Furthermore, branding analytics is said to be an important means of enhancing a firm's attractiveness (Sharma, Singh, and Rana, 2019).

Organizational attractiveness is seen to be a tool for retention (Joseph, Sahu & Khan, 2014) and also a predictor of employee satisfaction. In a study of 209 bank employees at the managerial level in three regions, Malwa, Majha, and Doaba, of the state of Punjab, human resource development value was found to have the maximum impact on the satisfaction of employees, including opportunities for personal and career development opportunities (Kaur & Syal, 2017). Two studies on Gen Y in India concluded that this is a generation with high expectations regarding extrinsic, intrinsic, and prestige work values (Rani & Samuel, 2016) and that this cohort is also quite open to changing jobs rather than job stability (Arora & Dhole, 2019).

In summary, although there are several empirical studies on employer attractiveness in the Global North, this literature is in its relative infancy in India. The research tends to cover the relevance of employer branding in India as a hiring and retention tool (Biswas & Suar, 2018), with very few studies on the predictors of employee attractiveness. The few studies that have been conducted are exploratory, fairly outdated or draw on a sample of college students rather than working professionals (Chhabra & Sharma, 2014; Madhavkumar, 2016; Roy, 2008), which may not provide a full contextual picture. Acknowledging that there are generational differences in terms of perceptions of employer attractiveness (Dutt & Mishra, 2021), this study addresses the interpretive experiences of Gen Y employees and compares them with the views of human resource executives (representing the firm) to assess any similarities and differences.

The research questions are as follows:

Research question 1: What are the dimensions of employer attractiveness (and unattractiveness) for Gen Y employees when selecting an employer?

Research question 2: To what extent are there similarities in the views of Gen Y and HR executives on the predictors of employer attractiveness (and unattractiveness)?


Given that there is little research on satisfiers and dissatisfiers, a qualitative exploratory study was conducted with open-ended questions that tend to elicit meaningful themes when using the coding method (Miles, Huberman & Saldana, 2018). Vignettes as discursive constructions was chosen as the most appropriate method as this not only taps into general beliefs in the context of cultural norms but is also an approach used to compare the views of disparate groups, and furthermore to provoke and produce knowledge that questions existing beliefs and practices (Torronen, 2018). The questions were shared with five researchers in the field for their feedback and was furthermore piloted on a sample of 8 working professionals.

As millennials tend to switch jobs every two or more years (Bhave, Jain & Roy, 2013), the sample selected was Gen Y at the early career stage, from the entry level to those who had worked for up to four years. A total of 40 respondents were interviewed, consisting of MBA students from two universities, one in the Delhi-NCR area (north...

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