Attracting Millennials to your Business

Ready to attract new talent and see your company grow!? If yes, I will give you a hint, it has nothing to do with ping pong tables, open environments, or bean bag chairs. 

I recently was talking about this subject with someone at a Fortune 5 tech company. They got excited, "we have a ping pong table." I asked if anyone used it, she replied, "yes, we put our food on it every day."

There is a huge misconception about what millennials want. Some will point to Google and other San Fran darlings as "proof" millennials desire fancy workplaces. Let me break it to you, even if Google didn't offer all the perks they provide, people from all over the world would continue to apply by the thousands. Google has actually changed the world, a phrase which is thrown around too often. It is not the free food, dry cleaning, and other luxuries which bring people to Google and similar companies. It is what they are doing which draws young people.

Last week we discussed "The Millennial Communication Divide at Work." It was the beginning in a series on how to attract, retain, and develop millennials. I consider myself fortunate to have worked with young people as a college instructor, with a non-profit, and now as a consultant.

The goal of the series is to move beyond the cliche stats you can easily find on millennials in the workplace. Instead, we want to look deeply at the topic as it is vital to the economic success and personal satisfaction of businesses and individuals in our culture. 

If you read last week's article, we found there is a large communication divide in the workplace between generations. We started to look at solutions and now with a foundation set, we can examine how to bring in new talent to our companies. 

So how do we attract millennials?

It's Time to Think Win-Win 

There are some ground rules in these articles. No blaming or name calling. Our intention is to have a real conversation. With that said, let's examine in a non-judgmental way an example which feels very real to many of our millennial and more experienced readers. 

Imagine a young person. They have grown up being told, you must go to school and attain a good job to care for yourself and possibly a family. This young person is ambitious and works their way to a good college. While at school, they do well academically, take part in internships during the summer, and graduate with an entry-level job. All this time they start to notice something. 

Their parents took a similar path. They went to school or the military, made it to a company, worked for decades, and as they are getting older a change starts to occur. Our young person sees their parents constantly passed over for promotion, or they are promoted and eventually let go because they cost the company too much money. 

So the young person thinks, hmmm, I need an advanced degree. That will keep me from having the same experience as my parents. They go back to school for their MBA, JD, or other "prestigious" piece of paper. This get's them a pay raise, but not much else. Upon graduation with their shiny advanced degree, they see their parents let go from the job they spent decades at or stuck in a position which they will never escape. 

The difference between what the young person has been told (go to school, get a job, go back for an advanced degree) and what they have seen with the previous generation (stayed with one company, eventually let go, passed over for advancement) is diametrically opposed. Our young person was directed toward a path which does not exist for most of the country.

Businesses have taken a turn from being a place which was reciprocally loyal to one where people must look out for themselves (it's a fascinating history if you are interested). NOTE: this is not every company. I am relaying the information I have gathered from research and working with young people and executives for over a decade.  

Now we wonder why millennials jump jobs, aren't loyal, are "entitled," and are "ruining" the workforce. To paraphrase Stephen Covey, we need to "think win-win."

Simple is Not Easy

Creating workplaces which attract millennials is simpler than expected. I did not say easy, I said simple. Getting in shape is simple, but it's not easy. Just exercise 4-5 times a week, drink only water, eat healthy, and sleep 7-9 hours a night. Again, simple but not easy.

How does this look at a company?

As a college instructor, I was always shocked at what actually motivated students. Many of them wanted to be challenged, but they wanted a rationale to back up the challenge. Robert Cialdini, one of the preeminent academic researchers on influence, has discovered the word "because" is one of the most powerful utterances in human language. Explaining to someone why they have been asked to do a task is incredibly important. There needs to be a strong "why" behind work. 

Why are young people flocking to social causes and tech companies? It's easy to understand. Social causes help others. Young people see the reason and are challenged to help. Tech companies change the world. Young people know they are making an impact because of their work. 

A key factor in attracting millennials to a company is to explain why they are valuable to their team. I was speaking with a former engineer who worked at a large oil and gas company, she ended up leaving the industry as she was fed up with never being told why she was doing something or how to improve. If she made a mistake, it was never explained what she did wrong and how she could bypass the issue in the future. 

As an older millennial, I can attest, our BS meter is amazing. We can call BS from a mile away. This is why we must receive a clear explanation of why we are doing something. We are not a generation which simply listens to orders. You might think it is a lack of respect, but at the same time, we have seen many groups discriminated against, including our parents who gave decades of their lives to corporations. 

We want a clear purpose of why we are doing something. 

Making Changes 

Whenever the BizLatte team is working with a business on millennial integration, we always say companies should not bow to the demands of millennials. That is not win-win. Instead, there needs to be a clear strategy, collaboration, and accountability across generations for businesses to perform and individuals to be excited about work. 

If you are a more experienced reader, maybe a manager. Evaluate your team and company. Do you provide clear reasoning for tasks? This is vital in attracting millennials. Imagine you are doing a job interview. You will want to clearly articulate how the job benefits the company and what is expected. This will attract people. 

If you are a millennial and can't seem to find what you want to do with your life. Ask yourself, do you have a strong "why?" Just use this phrase: "I want to do __________ because of __________." Knowing those two blanks will help you narrow your career aspirations and allow you to find a company which matches your desires. This will create a win-win for yourself and the company where you work.

Stay tuned as next week we will cover how to retain millennials in the workplace. 

Matt Avery

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