Retool recruiting to become a Millennial magnet

12 ways CEOs can attract next gen talent

Woman holding paper As CEOs across all industries look to usher in a new generation of workers, they’re discovering that finding top talent is no easy task. Thanks to a candidate’s market due to low unemployment rates, increased competition for potential employees and a lack of qualified workers, today’s businesses are charged with shaking up their recruitment and retention strategies.

By 2019, while it’s estimated that Millennials and Gen Z will make up more than 60% of the total population, many organizations are ill prepared to effectively recruit and retain these two generations of workers. According to a recent Allegis study, 69 percent find their organizations struggle to provide incentives that most interest Millennials, such as innovation autonomy, executive face time, mentorships, fast access to promotions, flex scheduling, and workplace wellness programs. Nearly three-quarters (71%) believe outdated work practices, unclear career paths, or limited advancements, skills development or mentoring would result in Millennials and Gen Zs leaving their organizations.

The fact is that talent recruitment has changed to reflect the priorities of new generations of workers. A new, tech-savvy generation seeking more purpose-driven jobs with flexibility in where and how they work is forcing employers to create an environment attractive to them. As digital natives who grew up in an always-connected world, Millennials want to be involved in work that engage their minds and provides purpose. In short, it takes much more than a paycheck to attract and retain this new generation of workers. It requires today’s organizations to understand what motivates the millennial worker, changing their own mindset in the process.

During a recent CEO Insights Exchange sponsored by Grant Thornton, CEO participants agreed that reimagining their recruitment and retention strategies is especially important as they face competition for top talent from larger companies and smaller start-up organizations. Too often, millennial job candidates are drawn to the perceived status and job stability associated with bigger companies or favor the entrepreneurial mindset and benefits of start-ups.

Some companies are finding that the challenge is not only in attracting Millennial talent but keeping them once they find them. In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics noted that the average Millennial has held 7.8 jobs between the ages of 18 and 30. Clearly, what used to attract and retain talent is not going to work for today’s environment. To win the war for top talent, here are 12 considerations for CEOs as they look to retool their recruitment and retention strategies to attract Millennial talent.

  1. Provide meaningful work
    Millennials are interested in doing work that makes an impact on the world, so it’s important to provide context to their roles. Make sure they understand how their efforts are contributing to the company’s goals and the greater good. Group Millennials into teams focused on the same goals which helps to highlight meaning and purpose.

  2. Outline a career roadmap
    Focusing on professional development opportunities is key to both attracting and retaining Millennial talent. They want to be challenged, nurtured and encouraged to grow professionally, and by investing in their talents and growth, you’re communicating that you are looking for someone to grow with the company. In a recent Gallup report, 87% of Millennials prioritized professional or career growth and development opportunities in a job. Yet, less than half of Millennials surveyed by Gallup strongly agreed that they’d had opportunities to learn and grow in the previous year. And only one-third said their most recent learning opportunity was “well worth” their time. When upskilling becomes ingrained in a company’s culture, it naturally attracts job seekers who value learning opportunities. Providing Millennial workers with a career roadmap is essential to help them grow internally. Such a roadmap should provide learning in two tracks: the first to improve their ability to perform their current role and the second to begin to prepare them for their next one. It should establish milestones every six months to show progression and articulate what their career would look like in 3, 4 or more than five years. Make sure you offer professional development, exciting projects and mentorship programs to keep Millennial talent engaged.

  3. Make time for mentoring
    Reverse mentoring is valuable as it allows top millennial leaders to share their technology knowledge and ideas with seasoned leaders. Consider the example of Coca-Cola, which created its Coke Young Professionals program to promote young professionals’ professional development, networking and social events. Millennials typically like working with others and perform well in teams but seek feedback in order to cultivate their leadership skills either by leading a project or an activity. Rather than wait for an annual review, provide feedback in real time. In turn, this helps managers access their young employees’ readiness for promotion or more responsibility.

  4. Focus on innovation
    Millennials are interested in doing work that makes an impact on the world, so it’s important to provide context to their roles. Make sure they understand how their efforts are contributing to the company’s goals and the greater good. Approximately 54 percent of Millennials would like to start their own company or already have, and 78 percent of Millennials cite a company’s innovation as a crucial factor for deciding if they want to work there. One way to satisfy their need for innovation is to develop an intrapreneurship program where self-motivated employees can focus on problem solving within a company, including researching new business opportunities or running an incubator company. Alternatively, organizations can sponsor competitions that allow employee teams to pitch new ideas for innovation or work on key challenges to the company’s growth.

  5. Demonstrate social responsibility
    Millennials tend to have strong sense of responsibility and are attracted to employers that contribute to the community in a positive way. In fact, research shows that most new workers would take a pay cut to work for a more socially responsible company. Yet, only about 16 percent of companies consider corporate social responsibility to play a key factor in their employer value proposition.

  6. Consider lifestyle support
    When considering additional benefits to attract Millennials, think lifestyle support. New generations of workers seek companies that work with their lifestyles. This might include student loan repayment programs, financial assistance, family benefits and fitness discounts. Companies that offer these benefits will attract and retain the best talent — and prevent significant turnover costs as well.

  7. Offer flexible work schedules
    To attract Millennial talent, you not only have to think outside the 9-to-5 box, you also have to create work arrangements that appeal to their lifestyle. An increasing number of Millennials value a flexible work schedule as much as a desirable salary. In fact, 70% of Millennials have either left or considered leaving a job because it didn’t offer flexible work options, according to data from FlexJobs. Moreover, 78% of Millennials stated they would be more loyal to an existing employer if they had more flexibility in their schedules. Both Millennials and GenZs grew up with smartphones and hyper-connectivity, so they know a vast number of jobs can be done from anywhere with an Internet connection.

  8. Create a space Millennials want to work in
    70% of Millennials have either left or considered leaving a job because it didn’t offer flexible work options. Providing flexible hours and telecommute opportunities can help make your company more attractive. It might also mean offering alternate work arrangements instead of requiring Millennials, who tend to favor urban life, to commute to the suburbs. Attracting talented Millennials to the suburban locations can be a fundamental challenge. Many of them are attracted to an urban lifestyle and not interested in commuting to the suburbs. The result is that organizations may be attracting talent who do not have the experience or qualifications needed and thus, require an additional investment in training which is costly and time-consuming.

    One way organizations are combatting this issue is by maintaining work locations in both the suburbs and the city through co-working options such as WeWork. It is appealing to Millennials who appreciate working in a flexible, incubator-like environment and it allows organizations to hire Millennials who want to work in the city.

    “There’s a big generational issue in that the older generations feel like they need to see Millennials in their office space and there’s a lack of trust,” explained Grant Thornton’s Erica O’Malley, national managing partner, Organizational Strategy. “They fear that their employees aren’t working when they can’t see them.”

    O’Malley added that this employer concern can be addressed through the use of technology. Solutions such as Skype or Surface Hub allows employees based in different locations to see each other virtually and collaborate effortlessly.

  9. Streamline recruitment process
    Too often, companies lose out on top Millennial talent because of the long lead times in the recruitment process. It’s difficult to keep the best candidates engaged through a two-month process when they’re seeking an immediate position. Hiring managers need to understand they are recruiting in a candidate’s market. A lengthy interview process that includes comprehensive skills and personality assessments often become additive and costs a company the best candidates. Candidates are being asked to do more, but with no scarcity of jobs in today’s market, they have other options to pursue.

  10. Craft better job descriptions
    If you develop vanilla job descriptions, you’re not likely to hire people who will be the perfect match or to attract them in the first place. Instead, revamp job titles and descriptions to help your organization stand out. Use keywords that appeal to Millennials’ priorities and interests.

  11. Tell a consistent brand story
    Millennials are skilled at researching prospective employers in all channels---social media, blogs, websites. Make sure you are communicating your brand story consistently across all channels and in a way that is differentiating and inspiring.

  12. Keep up with the latest tech tools
    Millennials want to work with the latest technology that is intuitive to use and easy to learn. How do your tech tools compare with those of your competitors? When selecting tools, choose options that connect to the cloud so that work can be done from any device.

CEOs who understand what drives the Millennial and GenZ generations of workers will be better positioned to recruit, develop and retain top talent in today’s employment market. By offering them meaningful work, career development and desire for flexibility and work-life balance, today’s organizations can help ensure they will have the talent they need to plan for their future health and growth.

Insight Exchange GT logoThis article is part of an exclusive content series for Grant Thornton’s Insights Exchange, where you will be connected with peer executives and leading experts to share best practices and solutions to help build tomorrow's organizations today.