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How To Recruit Younger Employees? Not By Doing Business as Usual


As baby boomers retire, organizations are faced with how to attract – and retain – younger employees. It’s a particular challenge for government organizations that may not seem like appealing – or lucrative – career paths.

What do millennials – those 73 million individuals born between 1980 and 1996 – really want in a job? Gallup recently conducted a large study to find out how millennials want to work and live. They identified six approaches that will require adaptation by organizations to attract this generation into the workforce.

  1. Millennials don’t just work for a paycheck – they want a purpose. Work must have meaning in an organization with a mission.
  2. Millennials are not pursuing job satisfaction – they are pursuing development. Employees want growth opportunities, not freebies like free food or ping pong.
  3. 3. Millennials don’t want bosses – they want coaches. No top down hierarchical supervisors for them.
  4. Millennials don’t want annual reviews – they want ongoing conversations. Talking about job performance once a year doesn’t cut it.
  5. Millennials don’t want to fix their weaknesses – they want to develop their strengths.  Organizations should ignore weaknesses and maximize strengths.
  6. It’s not just my job – it’s my life. Does this organization’s culture fit my values?

I decided to test a few of these ideas out on a group of millennials at my job. And, I was particularly interested to find out the differences in perspectives between female and male millennials. So I sat down for a chat with six women at work ranging in age from 24 to 30. All have been at their positions for less than four years, work across departments and several started as temporaries or interns.

Here is the first part of our conversation:

Does government attract people who are looking more for a purpose in a job? It was unanimous among the group that they felt – and needed – a sense of meaning from their position. They want to make a difference. But what else drives this?  “When you’re in your 20s, you are looking for the purpose of life. The trend is that now, when we are graduating from college, moving back with our parents is no longer a taboo. What that has brought is more flexibility for people to try and find a position after college that’s not just a paycheck. The concept of choosing something for the rest of your life is no longer valid. People want to be more well rounded, they want to break down silos.”

There was also the idea of a “quarter life” crisis – that period in your mid-20s when you are asking yourself, what is the meaning of life? Having a job that is meaningful seems to provide a few answers to that question.

Young people doing more extracurricular activities – volunteering or other public service – to be competitive in the college admissions process was also cited as a factor in seeking meaning from work. Students find they enjoy giving back, and look for a continuation of that community service when they get out of college.

Millennials are also growing up later in life, postponing children, and not getting married as often. “We’re holding onto the values of our 20s a lot longer than previous generations so we’re trying to extend out our college life and ideals.”

Was this any different for them as women? The group didn’t see much of a gender gap when it came to meaningful work. But, when it came to being taken seriously, it was a different story.

“A lot of times in a big staff meeting I have to ask my colleague ….to literally repeat what I say. People will listen if he says it, but not if I say it. It is the experience of having to work harder, be smarter, make less mistakes and be held to such a higher standard to even be seen as equivalent to a male colleague. My whole reputation is riding on being successful.”

But, it isn’t all about gender. Youth can contribute to not feeling heard. “I think people see me as somebody who is very young. Not having much life experience.” And, age can be an asset. “For me, age is part of my toolbox. I use that tool to bring something else to the table. I appreciate that I have that on my side. I don’t care that they’ll look at me as the young person.”

In part two of my conversation, we’ll talk about what these female millennials are looking for in a boss and what they think of annual reviews. Stay tuned.

Claudia Keith is part of the GovLoop Featured Blogger program, where we feature blog posts by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Blogger posts, click here.

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