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To Be Successful with Millennials, Bring Them in the Right Way

I’m often asked why Millennials complain so much about their jobs and leave their jobs so quickly. I usually answer with a question: How are you hiring and engaging them?

If you want your Millennial employees to be vital, satisfied participants, you need to get off on the right foot. The bottom line? Establish your credibility at the beginning — from recruitment through onboarding — by implementing these six recommendations.

1. Manage Their Expectations

  • Be responsive throughout the interview process. Answer their questions thoughtfully, and get back to them quickly. As soon as you know you’re not moving a candidate to the next stage of consideration, let them know.
  • Give them real work samples to help them understand the kinds of work they’ll actually be doing if they get the job.
  • Show them the environment in which they’ll work. If this isn’t possible at an interview, prepare a video tour. Don’t forget the restroom and break room!

2. Explain Your Organization’s Mission, Purpose, and Values

  • Millennials don’t work just to pay the rent. They want to work for companies whose aims are worthwhile, and to contribute to organizations or projects that make a difference in the world. They’ll feel more connected — and stay more engaged — if they care about the mission, not just the tasks, so find an engaging way to explain what your company is about.
  • Describe what makes your customers special, worthy, and significant, and how your products serve them.
  • Emphasize what your organization accomplishes, not merely in terms of units sold or numbers of customers, but how it serves the mission. Say you’re running a McDonald’s franchise: In addition to the sign that says “99 billion served,” create internal signage showing real customers — not stock photos — with captions about the convenience, ease, and kid-friendly service delivered to X number of families this year. Millennials seek concrete results and expect you to live by your word.

3. Show You’re Up-to-Date

  • Be current in your tech, whether it’s project management software or fresh hardware. To a Millennial, outdated tech equipment and processes suggest a lack of credibility.
  • Use social media effectively both with customers and internally to accomplish promotion and communication goals. If they think your social media outreach is stupid, it’ll create a negative halo effect.
  • Describe any location and time flexibility you offer, including telecommuting, work-sharing, online meet-ups, etc.

4. Give Them a Smooth Start

  • For their first day on the job, make sure their work space is ready, all their log-ins work at the first shot, and their desk is fully stocked. If possible, let them choose their own office supplies, screen savers, etc.
  • Introduce them to their work group and anyone else they’re likely to see every day. Schedule daily time with teammates; don’t leave them toiling alone in a cubical.

5. Support Their Future Growth

  • Create sequences of experiential learning so it’s obvious that they can make ongoing progress. They’ll be more inspired to keep learning and growing if they have new things to tackle every three to six months.
  • Offer tuition reimbursement, coding classes, book clubs, or mastermind groups. You can earn their loyalty by helping them be their best.
  • Give them the chance to try new functions. Cross training helps, as does exposure to interesting people who can share stories about their own career trajectories and provide mentoring along the way.
  • Publicize opportunities for career development, including hierarchical ladders and lattices that work across functions. Be sure they understand the qualifications and achievements necessary to be eligible — this is part of managing their expectations.

6. Recognize that Work Is Only Part of Their Lives

  • Millennials aren’t looking for work-life balance so much as integrated consistency in which everything fits. They’re very pro-social and are usually happy to engage with various causes, including environmentalism, social justice, health, animal welfare, and international poverty. Encourage local volunteering, and sponsor community service options in small, low-commitment ways.
  • Help them maintain physical health and conditioning. Offer a gym on premises or special deals at one nearby, and provide healthy snacks in the lunchroom. You don’t have to give it away for free, but you have to show you know what’s good.
  • Make reuse and recycling standard operating procedure; minimize the use of plastics whenever possible.
  • Encourage people to share stories about their non-work life. Company events can be developed around cooking and baking, music, and the arts, athletics, public service, etc.

If you’re not doing these things yet, it’s very possible that the Millennials working for you don’t trust what you tell them, don’t see a good future, or feel unhappy or out of balance. No wonder they’re disengaged or thinking of quitting! If you don’t have these kinds of practices in place today, involve your incumbent Millennial staffers in developing them. Not only will that be a great opportunity to reengage them, but it’ll make your organization more attractive to the new Millennials you’re trying to hire.

Onward and upward,


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