Inside the Millennial Mind: A Gen Y Recruiter Speaks Out — Part 2

Sep 17, 2014

Employers and talent acquisition professionals are still trying to grasp what it takes to retain the millennial generation, making sure that they are unleashing the full human potential of Gen Y. Clearly this topic of engaging and retaining millennials in the workplace is proving to be an ongoing struggle for those in corporate America and around the globe. In fact, a Bentley study found that about two-thirds of employers (63 percent of business decision makers and 68 percent of recruiters) say their organizations struggle to manage millennials. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, by next year, millennials will account for 36 percent of the U.S. workforce and by 2025, they will account for 75 percent of the global workplace.

Using what I shared in my first article to attract millennials into your organization, below are ideas to keep them retained and engage the full potential of Gen Y.

As stated in my first article, there has been a plethora of articles written about millennials, arguably calling Gen Y’s “entitled” and criticizing them for having distinctly different values and attitudes, and for always looking for a better opportunity. These generalizations are what drove me to understand what is important to my peers. Since I am fortunate enough to work with a strong and engaged group of millennials, I had the opportunity to conduct a poll to better understand what is important to them and keeps them engaged. The poll was informal: I tapped into the perspective of 20 millennials working within my organization.

  • Those around us: 95 percent of those polled said that the people they work with, both on a peer and leadership level, are most important to them. The culture of a company and the values of their co-workers are also crucial. The reason for this response was that Gen Ys enjoy working with other millennials; this keeps them in their comfort zone and fosters a familiar environment. In addition, being part of a strong team is important to millennials; it helps them stay engaged and succeed.
  • Where the future takes us: Opportunity placed second at 90 percent. Gen Y’s value and look for the opportunity to grow professionally, cross train in different areas, to grow their skills and advance their careers. Professional advancement enhances the feeling of financial stability, which is important for a generation that has to pay off student loans or other debts. This is a long term goal for Gen Y, and in fact only one person polled said that current compensation alone was one of the top factors to them, as opposed to other millennials who are focused on professional development and advancement. Millennials would rather be happy with their responsibilities than try to retire tomorrow.
  • Freedom to Innovate: Millennials are a very tech savvy generation. Fifty-five percent want to work in an environment that supports creativity. They look for the ability to express themselves, to be trusted to take risks, and to explore new avenues. This helps keep creativity high and eliminates mundane tasks that can often drive millennials to look elsewhere for a new challenge. Within this category is also the topic of work-life balance. The ability to periodically work from home or to take a PTO at the last minute was important to 40 percent of those polled.  For employers, this should be a fairly easy decision: unless you want to see your employees go somewhere else, give millennials and other employees, for that matter, more flexibility.
  • Stability: Having a stable role within a strong company was important to 30 percent of respondents. The security of having a job in today’s economy is reassuring and allows them to set up 401(k) accounts or start chipping away at their college debt. Millennials’ conscience also comes into play here: they want to make sure that they provide for those who gave them a chance at employment in the first place. A stable job allows them to venture out and test the waters, and to be selective about where they want to go next. The implications for the employers who want to retain millennials: Identify high-potentials among Gen Y and start grooming them for future leadership roles. Meet with them and give them constructive feedback on a regular basis. Reinforce their sense of purpose and assure that their talents are put to good use. Do not create false hope or raise unrealistic expectations.

These are just a few of the topics millennials consider important. Hopefully sharing them will help not only draw millennials into your organization but retain them for the long haul. As recruiters, we need to communicate millennials’ needs to employers and, conversely, assure that millennials understand what they can expect from employers. Whether we like it or not, we must embrace the fact that millennials are the future of our companies. Hopefully my generation and organizations can work together and together build a stronger future.