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How to Attract, Hire, and Retain Millennial Talent

Last week, Jay Leno said good night one last time as The Tonight Show’s host.  We all know one of the real reasons why Jimmy Fallon is taking over – it’s to attract a younger crowd to one of late night’s most famous shows.

In fact – Millennials, or they can be referred to as Gen Y, are one of the most sought after target markets today – from both marketing and advertising and recruiting and a hiring perspective. This new audience brings with it a large amount of social influence.  A demographic to help grow ratings and profit. Attracting Millennial talent takes a change in mind set. 

In order to engage and attract a  group with such influence to your organization, agency, and products or services, one must think like one – understand what drives them and what they value.  And to do this, you need to have them on staff.

So why is it so hard to attract, hire, and retain this brain-power?  

I’m going to let you in on a little secret – it’s not because they all have A.D.D. It’s often because you haven’t changed your processes and mindset in how you attract, recruit, and retain employees. They’re the fastest growing segment of the workforce and that’s not going to change. So adapt or be left behind. Government is notorious for having this image.

Throw out that company manual right now.  It’s time to start fresh.

Here is what you need to know to attract, engage, and retain Millennials. 

Recruiting - Don’t over promise and under deliver. Gen Y expects to be challenged and perform the type of work they have an interest in and want to perform. If an organization can provide these opportunities, it is likely Gen Y employees will stay engaged. If as an organization you can’t provide them with what they think is a fit, then tell them so on day one. If you over promise and under deliver, and they sense incongruence or feel stuck doing work they didn’t sign up for and don’t enjoy, they are likely to leave the organization.

  • To engage GenY set clear expectations, clearly define goals, implement management development programs, and share organizational values and beliefs from day one.

Meritocracy Not Hierarchy - Gen Y has a low tolerance for political bureaucracy. They don’t buy the “tenure” or “chain of command” approach. Gen Y believes in open and honest communication and feedback in all directions. They believe results, not years of service or level in the organization, drive team success. Traditional role and job progression is seen as too slow and outdated.

  • To engage Gen Y employees, consider changing the structure of your organization to a more flat model with less hierarchy and rewards based on merit and performance, not tenure and title.

Outside the Box Benefits - Gen Y enjoy flexibility, this includes flexibility in benefits. Having various programs and options in place and allowing Gen Y employees to choose where and how their benefit dollars will be spent is helpful in keeping them engaged.

  • To engage Gen Y Adopt a variety of wellness programs such as flexible spending, paternity leave, adoption assistance, health club discounts etc. Add some atypical offerings to your benefits mix such as iTunes gift cards, a rewards points program (based on performance) or an employee-to-employee leave/vacation balance exchange program.

Work Life Balance - Gen Y wants, almost demands, something beyond an all-consuming career. To keep them engaged, motivated, and committed, it is necessary to provide true work life balance. Achieving this can be done through a combination of outside the box benefits and creating opportunities that allow for building relationships and taking part in social groups. If they can get their work done in six hours instead of eight, then don’t keep them in an office for an extra two hours. If work can be done at home, or a conference call can be had while at a soccer game for their children, allow that flexibility.

  • To engage Gen Y, create team building or social events, pulse employees for what they would enjoy most (a golf outing, a child/parent baseball game etc.) Happy Hours and Pizza Parties are not always the best means of creating team cohesion. Gen Y have an “I can have it all” mentality: raise my children, spend time with my family and social networks, and still meet challenges to achieve goals at both home and at work. This doesn’t make them any less committed. If Gen Y sees that the organization is committed to their success both inside and outside of work, they tend to remain engaged. The key is balance!

These are just a few examples of how to attract, retain, and hire Gen Y/millenials.  For a full list view our checklist: How to Engage Millennial Talent

My suggestion – if you’re serious about focusing on this group of young, but innovative people – consult an Organization Development professional – one with experience in diversity and inclusion and recruitment and engagement.

Though you’ve likely got Millennials already working for your organization or engaged with your products or services – and tapping into those resources is a great way to start - you’re stretched to thin or likely too close to the situation to view it in an unbiased manner.

So let us know your challenges with generational diversity?

About Scott Span, MSOD: is CEO & Lead Consultant of Tolero Solutions - an Organizational Improvement & Strategy firm.  He helps clients in facilitating sustainable growth by connecting and maximizing  people --> performance --> profit™, creating organizations that are more responsive, productive and profitable.

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Tags: Gen, Y, engagement, generations, human resources, leadership, recruiting, talent

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Comment by Scott Span on February 18, 2014 at 10:06am

Great points, Ryan. Thanks for sharing your experiences. 

Comment by Ryan Arba on February 15, 2014 at 11:44am

Thanks for writing this, Scott.  As the unofficial Gen Y spokesman for my department (aka the 30 year old with a big mouth), I find that the hardest thing for most boomers to understand is the Gen Y definition of fairness.  Your bullet on work-life balance is a good example of this.  If it takes me 2 less hours to do my work, why should I have to sit around the office looking for work to do (that is often mundane and mind-numbing)?  Boomers, generally speaking, would see leaving 2 hours early as a tragedy and assign busy work to compensate.  

I don't know if there is a one size fits all solution to this challenge.  If you are a boomer, I would advise that you ask yourself one question: are you ok with high employee turnover?  If so, great!  Don't change anything.  If you find yourself losing one Gen Y staffer every year, and you don't like this, you may want to take a look at your attitude and approach.  If a Gen Y employee is given a "my way or the highway approach," more often then not they will take the highway.   

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