Interviewing, Hiring and Retaining Millennials

In the hiring process, knowing how each generation operates is key to successfully integrating new hires into the workforce. Generation Y, also known as the Millennials, was born between the early 1980s and late 1990s and are slowly rising into middle management positions. And they are completely different from their predecessors.

Two creative millenial business professionals working on a digital tablet while sitting on a staircase

What Are Some Millennial Traits?

The phrase “sense of entitlement” is frequently used when describing characteristics of Millennials. When referring to this group, entitlement is defined as possessing “the feeling or belief that you deserve to be given something (such as special privileges)”. Using this definition has generated a common perception that Millennials consider themselves deserving of benefits and rewards for various reasons, primarily because they consider themselves “special”. Unsurprisingly, this perception has colored how Millennials are viewed in the labor market and not in a good way. Surprising to some, however, this perception is also wrong.

The stereotypical Millennial grew up surrounded by technology that became increasingly more advanced as he/she grew older. This provided exposure to more information and experience with more activities than that available to any previous generation. Days were filled with soccer, ice skating, hockey, band practice, piano lessons, and many other options, all under the watchful eye of so-called helicopter parents. Is it any surprise, then, that the average Millennial might feel entitled, especially when it comes to finding employment? Except for one thing: It’s a myth. The sense of entitlement doesn’t exist, and any employer that ignores or undervalues Millennial job candidates because it believes otherwise will find itself unable to adapt to the changing demographics in the workplace.

Make no mistake. Workplace demographics are changing and changing quickly. Some baby boomers are retiring. Others that were separated from employment during the recent economic downturn are unable or unwilling to return to the labor force. Gen X is climbing the corporate ladder, opening up positions for Gen Z and Millennial employees, the youngest of which bring a perspective that is different from that of their predecessors but also, perhaps more interestingly, different from the misconception that they come into the workplace feeling entitled.

Unfortunately, by treating Millennials as individuals who have grown accustomed to “participation medals” and don’t have the requisite personality, drive or determination to succeed in business, an enterprise may deprive itself of human resources with outstanding potential.

One of the most important traits of Generation Y is that it cut its teeth on technology. Millennials were born into a world of technological advancement, and it’s important to understand that it’s not just something they want to utilize, it’s something they have to utilize. They would rather interact via text or email, and to begin the hiring process and set up an interview, companies can use these channels to contact their prospective new hire to get a fast response.

This is also a generation that does its homework. Generation Y candidates will likely know more about the company than the interviewer, as they will research the industry, company, and corporate culture prior to entering the interview room. They are looking for the ultimate work/life balance and want to feel like their work means something, so they want to know exactly what kind of company they’re considering.

They also believe in networking – Generation Y has been networking since birth. They will talk to their peers and anyone in their network to learn more about the company, the things that aren’t on the website, as well as check websites like to learn about salary, culture, and how happy the employees are.

Knowing all that, companies need to move fast through the hiring process with Millennials. These employees want flexibility and the power to bring a laptop to a kid’s soccer practice and work on their terms. As long as the work is done and done right, Millennials see no need to put in eight to ten hour days. Companies that wait too long with an offer risk losing the Generation Y candidate not only to their known competition but competition that the candidate herself creates for the company, because many will take their own laptops and set up shop for themselves.

But while Millennials have no need for nine-to-five, they are still very goal-oriented and respect older leadership. They expect mentorship from their bosses and managers, and they also look for ways to innovate. With that goal-achieving mindset comes a need for career development and training, but that training needs to be interactive and fun. This combination from Millennials can benefit companies immensely.

As long as companies remember in the hiring process that Millennials work to live, to support their lifestyles outside of work, they will be able to attract top young talent and retain that talent. Generation Y needs to find its work fulfilling and have the flexibility necessary to pursue lives outside of work. Companies that ignore the fact that Millennials need their work to mean something while still being able to have a life outside work run the risk of great Millennial candidates setting up their own shop – as their competition.

Attract, Hire, and Train Top Talent Among the Millennial Generation

The truth is, millennials aren’t so different from older workers. They want an interesting, challenging job and they want to be recognized for their accomplishments. Their approach may be different, but that difference can significantly benefit your business.

Millennials represent your largest hiring pool. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, they are now the majority age group within the nation’s workforce, and that majority will rise to 38.5 million in 2029.

Bring Your Brand Online

Before you even have the opportunity to hire a millennial, you need to have a plan in place that allows you to attract them. Millennials are always connected. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, all of these are essential and highly effective tools to not only attract top talent, but assure them that the they’re applying to a place that caters to the newest generation of tech-savvy and always-online crowd. It shows that you change with the times, rather than languish in the past. It’s necessary that you and your team grow and adapt to the changing technological landscape by establishing and maintaining a positive, inviting, and “cool” brand across the myriad social media options available. If your website or social media presence is lackluster (or, worse, lacking altogether), millennials will shun you as out-of-touch. Is your brand recognizable, one they can get behind and enthusiastically support? They will, and their social sharing can do wonders to boost your company’s reputation in addition to promoting your products or services.

To hire the best, you need to promote your company as one of the best places to work. Younger generations grew up with video, so create a short video about your company – who you are and what you do. Create a video showing them what it’s like to work at your business, too – your people, your culture and working style. You can display these videos at college and community job fairs to attract employees, and videos make excellent marketing tools to educate prospective and existing customers.

Accept the Changing Work/Life Balance

During the interview process, it’s important to know that you’re not just interviewing the millennial, they’re interviewing you. Why should they work for you when there are other companies out there offering better perks, better pay, and more opportunities for advancement? We live in a fast-paced world, so it’s a no-brainer to say mirroring that in the workplace while offering opportunities for flexibility and advancement within the company is essential to recruiting the best and the brightest. Priorities have changed for millennials. While some born on the Gen X cusp of the early eighties have opted to marry young and start families, the majority of millennials demand free time for a variety of pursuits. Many companies are therefore turning toward a variety of perks to help keep the work/life balance intact. This often includes flexible hours, an unlimited paid time off policy, and gym memberships. These are often found within the start-up culture, so for more traditional companies and fields, it’s key to not just recognize these changes as essential in recruiting the best talent available, but communicating to your potential new hire that these opportunities are available.

Growth, Not Stagnation

Millennials don’t want to be another cog in the faceless machine. They want to know that they were hired not just to provide a service, but to make a difference for the better. Unlike their predecessors, who often stayed with the same company throughout their career, millennials desire not just flexibility, but the opportunity to grow within a company. Stagnancy is dangerous, so it’s important to provide a number of opportunities not just for career advancement, but knowledge advancement. Without it, you run the risk of your new hire leveraging their time into a better offer with a more modern and progressive company. As such, you should communicate this clearly, opting for transparency rather than obfuscation. Millennials want to know what they’re getting themselves into, and by highlighting the benefits – and downsides – to working with your company and defining the goals clearly, you have a greater chance of weeding out those looking for a gateway job, rather than those looking for a career.

Discuss their career expectations and goals to help both of you determine if the fit is likely to be good long-term. Clearly delineate your company’s mission and values. And make sure potential new hires know you are excited to add their perspective to your employee mix — and that you’ll be there to help them succeed within your organization.

What Are Millennials Looking for in a Company?

In no particular order of importance (a Millennial would say they’re all important), these are some of the key factors they consider:

  • Innovation.  Millennials desire to work for a company that has the capacity to be innovative, to adapt to changing conditions and circumstances.  The Internet has made performing job duties at a desk from 9 to 5 if not outdated, at least unnecessary. An employer fails to recognize that at it’s peril.
  • Diversity in the workplace. The so-called Old Boys Network (read, all male, all white) was once accepted as normal. No more. A lack of diversity in gender, ethnicity, even in tolerance of lifestyle choices, is anathema to most Millennials.
  • Flexibility.  A company’s ability adapt to and accommodate the needs of its employees (and often their families) will go a long way towards developing employee loyalty.
  • Job security. Given the employment carnage they’ve witnessed (perhaps even experienced) since 2008, Millennials have become very sensitive to the impact lack of job security can have on their lives.

An organization must be willing to take an honest look at its own culture to determine whether it can readily adapt to the work culture of Millennials.

Encouraging Millennials to Stick Around

Millennials want to know they can move up in your organization, and that you reward top performance over mere time-put-in when promoting employees. These workers are young, so give them plenty of learning opportunities and encourage them to “stretch” into new roles. Help them uncover their hidden strengths and put those to use.

Give them responsibility so they can become leaders. Note, though, that millennials tend to be more collaborative than older workers who often see other employees as competitors. Less formalized hierarchy and more group interaction will help engage and retain younger team members.

Recognize that millennials bring extreme skills to your table, especially when it comes to technology. Tap into that, by asking their advice on how your business can make better use of tech tools and resources including social media, to engage employees as well as prospects and customers. And turn your millennials into coaches and mentors, helping less tech-savvy co-workers put the latest technology to better use to strengthen daily operations as well as your business brand.

Remember, you’re hiring a whole person, not simply filling a job description. Competitive salary isn’t the only draw. Cultural fit, a sense of purpose and future opportunity all matter to millennials, just as they do to your older employees.

Change can be a scary thing for companies set in their ways, but it’s no secret that millennials are taking over the workforce in record numbers. If your company hopes to attract the best talent among the millennial generation, it’s important to understand their wants and desires are less options than they are necessities, and only in realizing this will companies be able to not just find the best talent, but keep it.

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