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Attracting and Retaining Millennial Talent

Posted by: Suzi Parkinson
12/10/2016

For many employers, it’s becoming more and more apparent that finding the talent which will help their company succeed, is becoming harder. As more and more Baby Boomers retire over the coming years, employers will need to source talent to replace their experience. By 2020, millennials will form more than 50% of the global workforce, but it appears that despite the numbers of millennials, it is getting tougher to attract and retain them. In order for companies to do this successfully, there are a few things that they need to understand about this generation.

Firstly, unlike their baby boomer parents, millennials are only loyal to employers on their terms. It has been suggested that this could be down to millennials believing that loyalty to their company doesn’t mean that they’ll always get the career results they want, especially in times of economic turmoil. Millennials are always on the look out for new opportunities and part of this could be down to how easy it is to find jobs using platforms such as LinkedIn and searching on the move on mobile devices. Another reason could also be that many millennials have had to actually sacrifice their true career ambitions due to tough economic times and have felt that they made some kind of “trade off” to get into employment. Both of these are concerns for employers because when the economy improves, it is likely that many millennials will begin to move as other opportunities arise elsewhere. The other worry is that increasing digital technologies don’t just make it easier to job hunt, they also make it easier to set up businesses and side ventures, meaning that millennials could start their own businesses and be their own boss from a young age.

The most important aspect of working life for millennials is rapid career progression; this is the generation who are optimistic about their work and intensely ambitious. Once basics such as salary and working conditions are satisfied, millennials value personal learning and development over any other benefit of working life. A study conducted earlier this year by Price Waterhouse Coopers “Millennials at work – Reshaping the workplace”, has shown that 35% of millennials surveyed said that excellent training and development was the top benefit that they looked for and wanted in an employer. When describing the training and development sought, the millenials surveyed were clear that they valued learning from senior management through one-on-one coaching and mentoring with regular on the job feedback and praise; only 1% said this did not matter to them. A further point to bear in mind is that millennials don’t want rigid corporate structures, 65% surveyed said that these types of outdated management styles are failing to get the most out of younger staff members.

Millennials are also attracted by more than just a daily grind to pay the bills; instead they want a cause to believe in and work that is worthwhile. They are increasingly viewing their employers in the same way that they see consumer brands. Millennials want their company to represent cause, they want to admire it and be proud to be part of it. Both company and industry reputation is very important to this generation and thus companies who have a poor reputation or conduct business within an industry with a poor reputation, will need to rectify this to enough of an extent internally in order to attract and retain them. A positive presence on social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram may increase a company’s ability to attract millennials. PwC’s study showed that a company’s brand and values are also highly important once basic needs are met with 56% of millennials saying they would consider leaving an employer who no longer matched their values, so it is important for companies to be aware of their brand, reputation and values when attracting and retaining millennials. PwC reported that in years previous it was as high as 88% of millennials looking for employers with the same values as them, and 86% would consider leaving an employer who no longer matched their values. However, it is thought that the number of millennials focused on their company brand and values could increase again in years to come as the economy improves and millennials no longer need to compromise on aspects of their career choice.

Being “digital natives” millennials are set apart in the workplace by their expectations and ability to use technology in the workplace. This is the first generation that has entered the workforce with a much better grasp on essential workings tools such as laptops and tablets, than their senior colleagues. This enthusiasm to use technology and to question traditional working practices, often viewed by millennials as outdated, can cause conflict with older members of staff who do not understand the way in which they use this technology in the workplace. Millennials want to use technology to influence how, where and when they work; they are focused on the results of their work rather than the number of hours spent in the office. But when they are in the workplace, millennials are looking for a comfortable and creative work space which is engaging and stimulating. This should not be viewed as an indulgence by employers but instead as necessary, and good for engagement, meaning your millennial staff are more productive.

Employers need to be inventive and innovative with their recruitment strategy to attract and retain the best of generation Y. Money isn’t everything to millennials, so it is important for companies to remember that you can’t just throw more money at a millennial if they are dissatisfied in their workplace and expect that to be a fix. Employers should spend the time understanding what their millennial workforce needs in order to help them fulfil their professional goals. They may also want to help millennials fill their personal goals such as work life balance, sabbaticals for travel, personal development and secondment. Further, by customising benefits, rewards and development, employers can tailor careers that will motivate and engage their millennial workforce with a view to retaining them and their talent. Although, to some extent, employers need to accept that millennial churn may be inevitable and allowance for this should be built into their recruitment strategies.

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