Hiring top talent is more difficult than ever these days, due in no small part to the historically low unemployment rate. It has led hiring managers and recruiters alike to hone their strategies, refine their processes and even assess their companies in order to be competitive in the hiring game. Much of their focus has been on millennials — how to attract them, how to hire them and how to keep them.
Why millennials? Sheer numbers. The year 2020 is ushering in an important turning point for the U.S. population and, by default, the workplace as well. This year, according to Pew Research, millennials will overtake boomers as this country’s largest generation. Within the next five years, they will make up 75 percent of the workforce.
That’s why hiring managers and recruiters need to be savvy about what’s important to this generation. And it’s not necessarily what was important to boomers or even Gen X.
Kelvin Johnson, CEO of Humble Warrior Advisors LLC, has been on both sides of the hiring coin. He is a millennial himself, and has hired and coached millennials in the workplace. Here, he offers his best advice for attracting, hiring and retaining this generation. Spoiler alert: It’s about authenticity, walking the walk and looking at your company’s culture and style with a critical eye.
Purpose, purpose, purpose. Millennials want to see their impact. They want to know their work matters. While boomers “paid their dues” on the way up the ladder, millennials need purpose in their jobs right out of the starting gate. They need meaningful assignments, and they need to see the fruits of their labor in terms of tangible results.
Work/life balance. It’s not enough to talk the talk about work/life balance. Companies need to walk the walk. It means no working on weekends unless it’s an emergency, and no expectations of answering work emails during off hours, even if the boss is a workaholic.
Workplace culture. To millennials, workplace culture is more than a casual dress code, a beer tap in the breakroom and happy hours every Friday, although those things matter. It’s about the physical workplace environment, too. If your office decor hasn’t been updated since the ’80s, it might be time to get on that. One element that Johnson says is typically overlooked, but is vital to millennials, is technology. If your company is using outdated systems and is decidedly low tech, that’s a huge red flag. Ditto for your corporate website. It needs to look fresh and forward, but more than that, it needs to reflect who you are as a company as opposed to simply outlining what you do. “Millennials will be looking at your website before coming in for an interview, and they want to know why your company exists, not just what you do,” Johnson says.
Corporate values. These aren’t simply pretty words on a plaque in your lobby. Millennials want to know you’re walking that walk. Are you a good corporate citizen? Does your company participate in philanthropy in the community? Do you give employees time off for volunteering? Those types of corporate policies show millennials you’re walking the walk.
Management style. Like their Gen X predecessors, millennials do not appreciate micromanagement. They have an entrepreneurial spirit, are independent and autonomous, and do not want their actions scrutinized to the letter by a manager. At the same time, they don’t know everything, so it’s vital to allow millennials the freedom to not only make mistakes but to say they need some direction and guidance.
Creative benefits. Beyond healthcare, 401(k) plans and reimbursement for gym memberships, millennials are interested in flexible work schedules, remote working opportunities, liberal PTO policies, student loan repayment assistance and financial wellness programs. That last one is huge, says Johnson. Millennials are typically coming into the workplace shouldering a large amount of student debt, and they’re unaware about financial wellness and literacy. The issue is top-of-mind for them, and they are looking for guidance with everything from how much to contribute to their 401(k)s to how best to budget and save for a down payment on a home.
Career pathing. In addition to a clear path for advancement, millennials want to see opportunities to learn and grow. For Johnson, that’s the top reason he would either stay or leave a position. Continuous learning, opportunities for growing their skillsets, stipends for training and continued education, in-house coaching and mentoring, and opportunities to work in cross-functional departments are vital to millennials.
Attracting millennials is a critical part of any company’s hiring strategy, and with this generation, it means looking at what you bring to the table in addition to what they can bring to your company.