The New Majority Workforce: How to Recruit and Retain Millennials

Over 35% of workers in the labor force are millennials, making up the largest generation in the U.S. workforce. Lots of negative assumptions about this generation have swirled around over the last few years—they’re addicted to social media, they bounce from job to job, they don’t have a strong work ethic. Many of these myths are just that—unproven biases developed through a lack of understanding—so, if you’re hiring folks with 5-10 years of work experience, it’s time to check your HR team against stereotypes toward this huge candidate pool (because there’s a new generation right behind them). Celebrating millennials’s strengths and harnessing the unique contributions they offer will set your company up for success.

Here are some key tips for hiring and working with millennials.

Work is central in millennials’ lives.

Millennials are getting married later, buying houses later, and having kids later. As a result, they direct much of their time and energy toward work, where they make friends, express their creativity, and define their goals. Because their careers are so important, millennial workers want to have a clear direction for their professional growth and to know their employer is committed to helping them advance their career. Working with millennials successfully means recognizing their investment in their job, and doing your part to help them grow their skills. Investing in your millennials employees will help them see you as a valuable partner in their work life.

Salary isn’t everything.

It used to be that salary was the highest priority for professionals when considering a job, and many employers still assume they have to pay more to convert candidates. But millennial workers show more interest in compelling work, reasonable hours, and a healthy team culture. In general, younger workers are far less willing to make personal sacrifices in exchange for a bigger paycheck. They place more value on having community at work and a healthy work-life balance. In fact, studies have shown that they are more likely to take a pay cut in favor of flexible work hours or solid benefits.

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From a recruiting perspective, this millennial mindset prompts scrutiny of your company culture. Invest in developing a workplace that is mission-driven and that is committed to the work-life balance of employees. One way you can do this is by considering flexible working hours. While millennial professionals are committed to their careers, many are also building their families and making big strides in their personal lives, so if you can flex that 9-5 schedule and offer more remote work options, you’re more likely to retain these workers for the long haul.  

Millennials expect transparency & authenticity to earn their trust.

Millennials are very selective about where they spend their dollars, and about where they work. They want to work for a company that values what they value, so transparency is key to winning their trust and allegiance. Don’t pretend to be something you’re not. They will ask the tough questions, and want you to be honest with them. The key to winning millennials over and convincing them to work for your company is to be authentic about your organization, and to be transparent about the challenges your company is facing. They are more interested in authenticity than a perfect company.

Millennials thrive on diverse teams.

More than previous generations, millennials have a high value for diversity and inclusion. But they don’t just talk about it—studies show almost 50% of millennials consider the diversity of a company during their job search. They seek projects and teams that embrace different perspectives, encourage feedback, and foster growth and collaboration. A top-down, homogeneous environment in which decisions are largely made by upper management will not attract millennials. Embracing diversity is a key way to foster employee innovation, improvement, and development.

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Millennials want communication and coaching.

You may never have questioned your title of CEO or boss before, but it could be of utmost importance in attracting millennials to your company. It’s been shown that millennials seek leaders who function more like coaches than bosses. The difference between these two styles is critical in attracting a generation who wants their leaders to care about them as people, not simply employees who bring results. Commit to coaching them in their work and creating an environment that says you value their lives outside of work and you’ll see the benefits.

Millennials are entrepreneurs.

A study has shown that 70% of young professionals want to be their own boss. Employers hiring millennials can perceive this as a drawback—a threat to employees investing in their company’s long term success. Instead of seeing it as a negative, embrace millennials’ creativity and innovation. Companies such as Google and Disney provide their employees time—even funding—to focus on their own projects and ideas. While your company may not have the resources to do this, develop policies or programs that nurture these entrepreneurial inclinations and help millennials flourish where they are.

Don’t allow a set of stereotypes to keep you from appreciating the strengths and unique contributions of millennials in the workforce. It may take some time and effort to create an environment that caters to millennials, but it’s definitely worth your resources. At the end of the day, developing a diverse, inclusive, and values-driven culture within your organization will only open the door to greater success.

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