The Sales Development Blog

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Recruiting and Retaining Millennials: What Makes Them Tick?

Every day, 10,000 baby boomers reach retirement age and every day millennials enter the work force to replace them. The millennials, also known as Generation Y, are those smartphone-wielding, tech-savvy, social-media-loving people who were born between around 1980 and the early 2000s. But they’re much more than digital natives – their views of the workplace have been shaped by economic uncertainty, tough job competition, war, and globalization.

It’s no wonder they view the workplace differently from their parents’ generation. Companies that want to thrive must adapt to the needs and desires of this new worker. The following five factors comprise the checklist that runs through a millennial’s mind as they consider joining a company. Consider these views when trying to attract – and retain – young new talent to your team.

A desire for meaningful work
Many millennials have graduated during an economic downturn with no job offers in sight and a pile of student loans just waiting to be paid off – 65 percent of those who graduated in 2011 had an average of $27,547 in debt, according to USA Today. Of those who managed to find gainful employment, plenty were laid off during the recession and remained unemployed or underemployed for months if not years. The New York Times says the unemployment rate for 20 to 24-year-olds reached 17 percent during the recession.

Combine that with numerous high-profile corporate scandals, and the generation’s trust in corporations has been damaged. However, the generation is optimistic and resilient. They believe businesses have the ability to solve society’s biggest problems rather than create them. And they want to be a part of a company that is doing that – one that is making a positive impact while remaining fiscally and socially responsible.

Opportunities for continued education and on-the-job training
According to a study done by Robert Half International (RHI) and Yahoo!, nearly 75 percent of millennials said it’s likely they’ll go back to school. They are continuous learners who want to stay competitive in an uncertain job market. To attract and retain these candidates, companies must keep them engaged and challenged by teaching them new skills and providing opportunities for growth. Consider e-learning, a preference of this generation, or in-house training programs, industry-specific certifications, or workshops geared towards soft skill development.

Work-life balance
PwC’s NextGen: a Global Generational Study found that this generation puts a premium on work-life balance. They’ve seen their parents’ generation work long hours at the office to “pay their dues” in hopes of promotions and raises, then watched them suffer cutbacks and layoffs. Millennials have learned that you don’t always reap what you sow when it comes to your career, which means their priorities have altered to focus on finding a balance between career success and personal happiness.

Workplace flexibility includes occasional telecommuting, a focus on health and wellness in the workplace, and the option to shift work hours when needed. Millennials place such a high importance on this balance that the RHI and Yahoo! study found that some rank perks and benefits over a higher salary – so highlight what your company has to offer when it comes to a flexible lifestyle.

Mentorship and a positive relationship with management
Thirty-five percent of millennials want to communicate with their bosses multiple times per day, according to the RHI and Yahoo! study, while only 10 percent of this generation would be satisfied with weekly communication. This instant and constant feedback is much preferred over structured, infrequent reviews. Generation Y values a more personal and informal relationship with a manager rather than a strict hierarchy of superiors.

For managers of millennials, the goal is to be engaged, accessible, and communicative. There’s a balance that needs to be found with this generation that’s about setting clear expectations without micromanaging. Show interest in their personal and professional development. These are things that make a great manager of any employee, but these qualities are especially important to millennials.

A clear path for advancement
It’s no secret that the millennials are known as “job hoppers.” If they aren’t advancing, they’ll switch jobs. RHI and Yahoo! found money, benefits, and growth to be the three main factors that affect a millennial’s decision to flee their current position for a better one. Their parents were used to being rewarded for seniority and time of service, but millennials want to be rewarded for innovation and contribution to company success.

If you want to hang on to this generation at your company, make sure your career paths allow for high achievers to ascend the ranks quickly or reap some serious benefits. What it comes down to is that millennials want to advance faster. A position – especially an entry-level one – with a high turnover rate should be analyzed to make sure it’s challenging and interesting, there is opportunity for growth, and it has a capable manager overseeing it.

There are so many mischaracterizations of this generation – lazy, entitled, over-stimulated, unreasonable – but studies show that their priorities and ethics are in place. They’re ambitious, motivated, and educated, and this generation makes significant contributions to the economy and to society. If your company can find a way to engage and challenge this generation, you’ll reap the benefits of the innovation, dedication, and hard work that follow Generation Y workers wherever they go. Investing in tomorrow’s leaders is the best way to ensure your company’s future success.

Interested in reading more about recruiting the right people for your company? Check out more in the memoryBlue blog.

Since cofounding memoryBlue in 2002, Chris has helped provide inside sales resources to more than 150 high tech companies, and has hired, placed, or evaluated hundreds of high tech sales professionals. Chris spearheads the memoryBlue recruiting service, and is passionate about developing sales talent that generates results.

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