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How to recruit (and retain) Millennials

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What does the future hold for recruiting millennial employees?
With the end of 2016 now in sight - yes watch out for the first season’s greeting cards in the shops - it has flagged up that we are over halfway through this decade already, even though it only seems last year that we were worrying about the Millennium Bug!

With this in mind we are examining the changes in the workplace demographics that have taken place over the last few years, and what adaptations both recruiters and employers will need in order to make companies attractive enough to appeal to prospective staff and just as importantly, to retain them.

Millennials are the newest generation to have entered into the workforce - being those people born between the early 1980s and early year 2000 - also known as Generation Y.  These follow on from Generation X (or Gen-X) born between early 1960s and early 1980s, and prior to that Baby Boomers (with post 1945 to early 1960s birthdates).

So why are Millennials so important
By the year 2020, Millennials will make up 50%  of the global workforce, and will very soon outnumber Generation X workers, as increasingly Baby Boomers retire and will eventually by 2030 make up 75% of the labour market.  Already commentators are looking at naming the next generation - already tagged as Generation Z, with some considering them already to be in existence with birthdates from mid-1990s onwards.  This apparent concern about making the workplace more accommodating shows the major influence these groups are going to have.

With this dramatic change to the labour market employers should consider what adaptations must be made to their companies to adjust to this new demographic.  More importantly, why are Millennials being seen as so different to existing staff that a whole culture shift for employers and the recruitment process is necessary.

Caricature or true to form
Stereotypically, Millennials are seen as under 35s, self-centred, needy, selfie-taking individuals, who are incapable of staying in one job for any significant length of time.  Whilst this caricature has some aspects of truth, it is not right to pigeon-hole all those within this generation, but it must be considered why they are thought of as being like this.

Basically Millennials have different ideals when looking for an employer.  High on their list of priorities is flexible working hours - whilst they may not expect to be able to work from home every day, they would like this option to be available when need be and have a less rigid working pattern than may have been previously expected.  This generation tend to be idealistic, wanting to work for companies that they consider to be ethical, to reflect their moral beliefs and be extensions of the consumer brands that they set high standards by in their personal life.

Another Millennial trait is the expectation of rapid career advancement, and this is why job-hopping is common, with the average Gen-Y-er changing jobs every 1.5 years, compared to the 7-year typical stay for Baby Boomers and Generation X employees, who also expect to prefer to work their way up the career ladder.  Their need for constant feedback is a requirement that employers should consider - and not just a three-monthly review, but would much prefer a weekly report on their progression.

Born with a phone in their hand
We should therefore consider why this generation is so different to previous ones, and how this will define the workforce for years to come.  Millennials have grown up in an age of advanced technology - high-speed broadband, smart phones, laptops, tablets and social media are a huge part of everyday life for them.  Their use of this sets them apart from previous employees, along with their expectation of access to instant information.  They are the first generation to enter the workplace with a better handle on business tools than their predecessors.

Their expectation of feedback, peer comparison and desire to progress quickly up the career ladder, stems from an education system focussed on comparison tables and instant reward for achievements.  With the global economic crisis having bearing on their outlook, they place more emphasis on personal needs than those of the company, which leads to them being prepared to move on quickly if expectations are not being fulfilled.  Previous generations have valued financial security over the need for feeling motivated by the idealistic ethos of the company.
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Letting the next generation down

Recent events show how attitudes between the generations differ with the Baby Boomers greatly influencing the recent EU referendum outcome.  On the whole, the older generation wanted to leave the EU, and the majority of Gen Y wanted to remain. Historically Baby Boomers are more likely to vote and this showed in the voting breakdowns.  In an age when Millennials are so steadfastly in contact with the online world they couldn’t possibly have not been aware of the coverage encouraging them to register to vote and to get out there and physically put the X on the paper - so why did they still fail to do so?  A dedicated effort to make politics more accessible and engaging to Millennials will need to be adopted and this stance can be applied to the workplace too.

How to future-proof your workplace
Now that employers and recruiters are armed with all the necessary information, how can this be used to ensure that the workforce is future-proofed?  Firstly we need to consider how Millennials look for jobs - this will potentially guarantee that all the best possible talent are seeing vacancies and become prospective candidates.  

The majority of Millennials search for jobs on their phones - with social media platforms, especially LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter, being the most popular.  Almost two thirds of millennials seemingly visit company’s social media sites to find out about advertised jobs; this means that it is vitally important that these are up-to-date, regularly populated and that the company brand and ethos is reflected here.  The Millennial will want to see actual photographs of the company and employees (as opposed to stock images) - being fake is not something that this generation will tolerate.  All current vacancies should be easily viewed - and applied for - on this site.

They will SO apply for this job

How then can recruiters make the job package so appealing to these people that they will so want to apply for the job?  The advert should include details that will motivate the candidate - they will want to be part of a team, feel valued and that they are making a difference, and also care what people think about them.  Although millennials tend to have a sense of entitlement they are motivated by benefits, perks and other rewards.  To this end the recruiter should highlight any bonus packages and opportunities for advancement and professional development.  If this has not been built in as part of the job package, then the recruiter should encourage the employer to look again in order to recruit the talent they are looking for.

At the interview stage, millennials are only happy if they are told everything there is to know! This increases their positive experience - again important to make them feel involved and valued.  Location of interview is important, they do not want to feel hidden away, which gives rise to fears that the company has something to hide.  Show them the working environment and introduce them to key members of staff - this gives them a chance to connect with and assess the age, culture and backgrounds of the existing workforce.

Now you’ve got them, don’t let them go
So now you have your new millennial employees, what can you do to keep them and make sure their talent makes your company grow and not someone else’s?  Following the model of some of the largest global companies, for example Google or Apple, and simply installing bean bags, games rooms and personal fridges will not really cut the mustard.  The company as a whole must adapt, by which they will need to consider the points we have outlined in this article, but at the same time ensuring that existing employees are not alienated.

  • Consider more flexible working hours - if this will fit into your company’s structure.
  • Provide opportunities for career progression and personal development.
  • Regular feedback is crucial, as is training.
  • Financial packages and company perks are important.
  • Make sure your workplace is tech-savvy - consider less face-to-face meetings and more video and web conferencing.
  • Keep your company brand current - this includes websites and all social media platforms.
  • Most important of all - listen to all your employees.

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