Obviously there has been a lot of discussion about millennials – probably as much as there is about the baby boomers on the other end of the spectrum. As leaders, we know that the future success of any organization depends on its ability to recruit, train and retain young people. How are you attracting millennials?
I believe the first step is to build a culture they want to be a part of. We’ve taken this seriously at Marco and intentionally work to create an environment where millennials want to come to work – and spend their careers. Millennials, as we define it, were born between 1988 and 1999.
So, how do we do it? I sat down with one of our HR recruiters (and millennial superstars), Andrea Hagberg, to identify some of the key elements to our success. What we have learned is the environment matters most and if we do it right, they will tell their friends about us. So, this is the first part of a two-part series on recruiting millennials. In part two, we’ll share the qualities that capture their attention and can set you apart.
Culture matters to millennials. That’s why we’ve seen organizations like Google and Facebook turn the workplace upside down with slides, scooters and impromptu ping pong games. Those certainly do make the workplace fun. But here is what we have found is important to millennials and helps them effectively contribute to an organization:
- The ability to help make decisions or take the lead.
Early on, we give millennials opportunities to help make decisions or even lead a project. “I felt like my ideas were taken seriously right away,” Andrea said. She has been a part of the decision-making on several key efforts for our organization and is currently leading a new culture initiative with another millennial at Marco. We want to hear from our millennials and when they have an idea, we want to help them run with it.
- Encouragement to try something new, even if it fails.
Failure can still be forward movement. We don’t expect our team members to have all the answers or get everything right. (None of us do.) We want them to have the courage to innovate and when it doesn’t work, fail forward faster. We know achieving success means making mistakes and even failing along the way. You just can’t do it all the time.
- Autonomy to do their job well.
One of the most important items we measure on our annual employee survey is “My supervisor trusts me to do my job without looking over my shoulder.” It is important that millennials feel that way, too. So, we give them job responsibility and show we’re confident in their ability to do it. In the culture initiative that Andrea is co-leading, she helps execute the plan with the team, engaging others as appropriate. (She even tells me my role and how I can help the initiative succeed.)
- Feeling invested in.
Millennials want your time. They want to learn from you. Seize those everyday opportunities and intentionally create more formal efforts. At Marco, we have established more formal sessions to mentor our millennial team members. Ten of our millennial women meet monthly with a group of our women leaders for coaching and development. We also encourage team members to get involved in organizations focused around young professionals.
- Genuine connection with leadership.
The most important relationship is the one millennials have with their managers. They want to genuinely connect with their supervisor and members of the leadership team. It starts with regularly checking in with their millennial team members, understanding their needs and showing they care. The leadership team also needs to reach out. I try to spend time with our millennial team members to listen to their career goals and share my perspective. They seem to appreciate the casual and comfortable conversation.
- Affirmation of their work and future potential.
Millennials like feedback – and more specifically words of affirmation. They want to feel that their work matters to your organization and are valued. They want to know what they are doing well – and where their potential is. The more frequent the feedback, the better. It’s important to indicate what their career path might look like and how they can grow within the company.
A good first step to attracting and retaining millennials is to create a contemporary workplace that employees of all ages want to be a part of. What often deters people from joining and staying with a company is an old-school culture. Look around your company, what do you see?