The youngest segment of the U.S. workforce—known as millennials—is now also the largest, and smart businesses recognize the need to recruit and retain this important demographic.
According to Pew Research Center, millennials currently number 54 million working Americans ages 18 to 34, making them the largest employee block ever, displacing Generation X which held that top spot for the past three years.
However, within the workplace, the importance of the millennial cohort extends beyond its sheer size.
In fact, the White House Council on Economic Advisors recently cited several distinctions that separate millennials from their predecessors, namely:
- Technological fluency
This group is the first raised during the age of the Internet, ubiquity of mobile devices, and real-time social media engagement.
- Higher educational achievement
61 percent of millennials have attended college compared to 46 percent of Baby Boomers.
42 percent of millennials identify with an ethnicity or race other than non-Hispanic white, which is twice the rate of Boomers.
Thus, millennials' tech-savvy upbringing, broad education, and diverse profile make them unique among employees from other generational groups.
In his book, Generations at Work, lead author Ron Zemke addresses those characteristics and shares meaningful insights into the workings of millennials and what they value in the workplace. He suggests keeping these factors in mind when it comes to attracting millennial talent:
- Expand your training department and communicate it to potential millennial hires. Zemke's research found that this particular group is motivated to enhance their work skills and advance their education unlike any other demographic.
- Allow them ample time to get up to speed. The author states that another important consideration for millennials is adequate orientation. Specifically, the on-boarding process needs to clearly articulate the organization's culture, expectations, environment, and goals to facilitate optimal acclimation.
- Get to know them personally in order to encourage performance. If you want to attract millennials, you'll need to intentionally engage with them on a personal level. Zemke says a key tactic is working to understand their personal goals and then crafting strategies that integrate those goals into performance metrics and meaningful job deliverables.
- Nix traditional gender roles on the job. Zemke says you need to jettison preconceived notions regarding a "glass ceiling," gender roles, or stereotypes if they exist within your organization. The millennials' diversity and influence are redefining those in both broader societal and workplace contexts.
- Renew your organization's commitment to a team-centric focus. Teams, teamwork, and social interaction are important to millennials who have been raised on a steady diet of social media, text messaging, and near-constant connectivity with others. A team-oriented focus resonates with this group according to the author.
- Establish a culture of mentorship within the organization. A complementary tactic to the aforementioned team approach is formalizing a mentorship program as well. Zemke notes that millennials value the opportunity to be matched with veteran employees as part of their ongoing personal and professional development.
While these recommendations are intended to specifically attract high-quality millennial talent, you can find the characteristics of generation X and baby boomers as well, so you can consider what they value most when recruiting talent from their ranks.