How to Recruit and Retain Millennials

There are some blatant misconceptions when it comes to recruiting Millennials – they are not loyal employees, they only care about what’s in it for them, etc. The truth is, Gen Y is simply motivated by different things.

In lieu of salary and stability, this generation values freedom, personal growth and meaningful work. They command autonomy, empowerment and flexibility. They want to be challenged and inspired and they want to know “why”…because they want to make a difference.

If companies can understand and tap into the intrinsic motivators of this generation, they will attract a dynamic, creative and bold workforce that will be as loyal, if not more loyal, as those from previous generations. That’s not to say that the previous generations don’t care about an exceptional working environment. The difference is: Millennials demand the things we all want but never had the courage to require.

Find them in their natural habitats

Half of HR managers feel their selection methodology is suitable for Gen Y, according to Spenglerfox’s Generation Y Survey but only 27 percent feel it actually amounts to best practice. Most are still relying on outdated techniques to attract talent, such as agencies, newspaper ads and recruitment fairs.

The best way to find Millennials is to go where they are. Meet them on their own territory. Progressive companies are using the power of social networking, online business and student portals, meetup groups, conventions, online forums and even tech-related competitions. And of course referrals – like attracts like. Less than a quarter of HR directors said they used market mapping and talent monitoring services which is also a huge opportunity.

Give them a reason to come to you

Consider what problems potential hires may have, and how you can solve them.  Niagara Falls chose a great incentive to lure new graduates to the area, offering to pay off their student loan debt. For your company, the carrot may be growth opportunities, unlimited vacation, or health benefits.

According to a 2011 Cisco survey, 2 in 5 Millennials would accept lower pay in exchange for more relaxed policies on mobility, social media access and devices. Nearly half picked their laptop as the most important piece of technology in their day-to-day lives. Yet another survey by Robert Half discovered that more than half of firms banned social networking entirely at the office. There’s a disconnect right now between what organizations are offering and what Millennials want.

Company culture and purpose has never been more important. Gen Y sees work as more than just a job. Employers should be making use of social media, video, branded web pages and recruitment materials to communicate the company narrative. Make it personal! Make it clear why your firm is a great place to work and why staff enjoy coming in every single day.

When you look at the companies who are successfully harnessing the brilliance of the Millennial workforce – companies like Zappos and Vimeo – there’s a common thread among their recruitment messages: “We’re making the world a better place, having a great time along the way and want you to be a part of it.”

Don’t keep them on a leash

Many Gen Y staff cringe at micro management, perceived or real. Give them a good grounding then throw them in the deep end. Sink or swim – it’s the quickest way to let them prove themselves and for you to see whether they’re up to the challenge.

The days of strict 9-5 ‘paper-pusher’ hours are also on their way out. Fear-based control, discipline and obligation is a style of the past. Millennials want a results driven environment where time is irrelevant as long as you can produce. It is quality over quantity. And given the appropriate freedom along with a greater purpose, produce they will!

That’s why Jody Thompson and Cali Ressler (at Best Buy) devised the concept of the Results Only Work Environment (ROWE) where employees are paid for output rather than by the number of hours worked. Face time is an old fashioned mentality; insteadROWE tries to give managers the tools to define quantifiable goals that employees focus on meeting, however they may do it. ROWE empowers staff to work outside traditional work hours or remotely as business is increasingly conducted around the clock and over the internet. Flexible work arrangements are attractive to today’s talent and often more profitable and effective for employers. When managers are comfortable with holding staff accountable to the numbers, this freedom becomes an opportunity, not a burden.

They are also more apt to be involved in multiple projects and/or hobbies simultaneously. However, this is not a threat as they are brilliant multi-taskers and will be fully engaged in all of them…ultimately making them an even more dynamic asset to your team.

Invite interaction

Unlike previous generations, Millennials require collaboration and transparency. They need to understand the reason behind the task or project in order to be fully engaged. Again, they do not work for work’s sake. They work toward a greater end.

In the Harvard Business Review, Michael Fertik recommends bosses frequently ask questions of their Gen Y staff. “It will stimulate younger employees to think for themselves and affirm their contribution of ideas. Sometimes the answer will also make you realize that something the company is working on is actually quite dumb and a waste of money. And sometimes the answer will surprise you in a different way: the employee may think that something he or she is doing is dumb when, once understood in context, it is actually quite useful to the business. When you hear this kind of answer, consider it a great learning for yourself: something has remained unexplained for the team.” Regular training sessions on different aspects of the business should also be considered, he says, rotating staff through the various functions and enhancing their understanding of the operation as a whole.

While managers traditionally saw no reason to explain or justify themselves to staff, Fertik says the best managers of younger staff see value in doing so. “Rather than assuming that twenty-somethings possess enough experience or perspective to read between the lines of their choices, these managers take an extra few minutes to lay out pros and cons and diagram their rationale. Three short minutes of explanation usually make excellent junior employees excited, since they feel the immediate benefits of gaining insight into decision-making processes. It also makes them better at working for you and your company, because it teaches them how you think.”

Encourage Personal Growth

Gen Y is motivated by a more balanced and fulfilling way of life that prioritizes personal development. They want to be challenged and inspired and, as an employer, if you can join them on this mission, you will drastically improve your ROI through greater loyalty and buy-in (not to mention having a team that is continuously undergoing improvements!). Seek that they are empowered to be the best that they can be and guess what…you simultaneously end up with a workforce operating at full potential.

In Tony Hsieh’s book, Delivering Happiness, he hits the nail on the head:

“We believe that inside every employee is more potential than even the employee himself realizes. Our goal is to help employees unlock that potential…wanting employees to be their fullest self and to bring their whole self to work…Let your employees take risks and try new things. Some will work and some won’t and that’s ok. You may have an amazingly talented software engineer who is also a rocking’ musician — let him or her find an outlet for this passion at work too. I think when people dread going into work on Monday morning, it’s because they know they are leaving a piece of themselves at home.” 

Millennials make up about a third of the workforce, a number that’s set to increase to nearly 50% by the end of the decade. The bottom line is, when it comes to recruiting and retaining this generation, create a fantastic place to work and the rest will follow.