I’m 31-years-old, therefore I am a millennial. We have a bad rap and I get it – I do. There’s that whole bit about how we all got trophies even if we were dead last in the league. None of us have seen a rotary phone or know what a fax machine is. Seinfeld ended its streak when I was 14, which means there are a small sampling of millennials that were born after the show wrapped. We are the generation of the “like,” “the selfie,” “the tweet,” and texting as a primary form of communication. Our attention span is short and our method of communication is fast and to the point.
Millennials: the future of the workforce
Here is a mind bender; in 2020 we are going to be 50 percent of the entire workforce. So here is the big question: how are you engaging us? Are you ready for a generation that works most waking hours but never wants to be in a cubicle? Are you ready for a generation that tells you we value work-life balance more than the overtime? A generation that largely prefers being a “contractor” rather than an “employee”?
Old methods prove ineffective
I attended a conference in Boston a couple of weeks ago. It was great conference: really informative sessions, well respected industry experts, great food (lobster rolls for days), etc. Like all conferences, I tried to learn as much as I could, picking the brains of the smarter, more experienced folks there with the intention of implementing best practices with my group.
However, I had a question that brought a sour response from even the savviest, most seasoned headhunters there. The question is a simple one; how does your firm do with recruiting millennials?
Some folks said, “Just as well as we recruit generation X and Baby Boomers,” which I know were lies. Some said they have trouble gaining commitment, talking about compensation, closing etc. and tend to stumble through the process. I even got “I don’t recruit millennials; they’re too difficult to deal with.”
The only similarity was that they all agreed to some degree that their approach needs to be tweaked, and it is only going to change more with time. In addition there’s a closing talent gap and lack of young people studying in STEM fields (science, technology, engineering and mathematics). It’s getting tougher to recruit, and now it’s time to adapt or die.
So the question now is what can we do?
First and foremost, EMBRACE THE CHANGE. Millennials are the future of the workforce. They work differently, but they work just as hard as today’s workforce, and in some cases even harder. They are part of a growing “contractor workforce,” where work is woven into identity. The lines of separation between work-time and downtime have been blurry for a while, but they are blurring even more with the new wave of talent.
Communicate like millennials communicate. I push the importance of picking up the phone and I ALWAYS WILL. That said, we don’t respond like generation X and Baby Boomers. Phone calls are at about 4 or 5 on the list of best ways to communicate, right behind texting, DM’s, IM’s and email.
I have recruiters in my group that are 24 and 25-years-old that don’t answer their cells when I call (it might just be me), but if I text seconds after my feeble attempt goes to voicemail, you can bet the entire farm that I’ll get a text back in 20 seconds or less. I’m continually in awe of how much information they can text in those 20 seconds.
Again, talking to a candidate is absolutely vital for many obvious reasons: culture fit, understanding compensation, building rapport, closing, and more. But it’s okay to text or email the little stuff.
Operate with transparency. If it is on the Internet it, millennials will find it. There are tons of sites that make it easy to dig up information on clients. I encourage recruiters to do as much research as possible, find information and talk about it.
Understand motivators and compensation expectations… then educate. This has been the most difficult aspect thus far. This is where the clichés come in; for example, growing up we all got trophies, even if we were in last place. We need you to hit the “Like” button on our Facebook posts, we need you to favorite our tweets. Do you see what we’re doing? Look, LIKE, FAVORITE. That mentality poses a problem in the workplace and skews expectations. So listen, empathize and then communicate reality.
Up your technology game. This coincides with communication. For example, think of the “interview preparation” step of the process. FaceTime, Skype and the like are old hat to millennials, so use them. Then set up a time to connect face-to-face and discuss the interview. Beef up your social media accounts, and they’ll look for you. Let them find you. Let them see you’re connected and in tune with how your business works, and you’re the best person to find them a job.