Ready to Attract Millennial Talent?

A statistic from SilkRoad’s recently released 2014 State of Talent Management ( survey caught my attention: “The majority of respondents (56 percent) were either very concerned or concerned about attracting top Millennial talent as Baby Boomers retire. Only 10 percent were unconcerned.”

I think many companies are over-thinking this challenge. I’m of Generation X, rather than a Millennial, but many of the ways we differ from the Boomer generation’s workplace expectations are similar. Boomers have a reputation as workaholics who were willing to sacrifice personal time and flexibility for the sake of their jobs, but those of us in the younger generations have more of a focus on quality of life and work/life balance.

That focus on having a fulfilling life outside of the office means younger workers will be most drawn to companies that enable flexibility. In other words, companies in which the focus is on the end-product or deliverable that is produced rather than on the process of producing it. Companies that focus heavily on the hours spent behind the desk in the office rather than the quality and dependability of the employee’s deliverables won’t be ranked highly.

The top-down approach of management in which a boss is a director rather than a contributor also is out of touch with the times. With many managers leading ever-smaller “departments,” a boss who isn’t willing to pitch in and ask how he or she can help isn’t going to be popular with young employees. Remember, both Millennials and Generation Xers came of age during recessions. In the case of Generation X, it was the recession of the early ’90s and then the bursting of the tech bubble at the end of the ’90s. For Generation Y, the coming-of-age recession experience is ongoing. This experience of coming of age in bust rather than boom times is different from the Baby Boomers who entered a thriving, fast-growing economy in the mid-20th century. In those days, workforces were larger so tat it wasn’t unusual to have a “from-the-treetops-only” boss who just offered critiques and suggestions. That old model of boss is no longer acceptable to young employees who resent a manager who gives authoritarian-sounding directives without pitching in.

The younger generations, particularly Generation Y, are highly tech savvy. Companies with management from the Boomer generation that respect younger workers enough to make use of this knowledge will be rewarded. You can do this by including younger employees in plans to update internal or external Websites or mobile apps. From a practical perspective, the company will benefit from these younger employees’ expertise. And from an emotional, interpersonal perspective, the company will be showing Millennials that they are valued.

Times are still tough and jobs are still in short supply, but that doesn’t mean the youngest of the workforce will tolerate being taken advantage of. Many are showing they would rather live with their parents an extra year or two (or three) than work for a company they feel has misplaced priorities. Another way to say it: The over-worked, under-valued, rigid work model of the mid-20th century doesn’t suit Generations X and Y.

What are you doing to attract and retain Millennials? Do you believe any special effort is needed, or do you feel the same recruitment and retention strategies that worked for Boomers will work for younger employees?