Despite what you may have heard, millennials aren't so different from previous generations. Sure, they have a strong tendency to put their foot down when they don't like something about their employer's business practices, but is that really so bad?
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Baby boomers will age out of the workforce over the next decade, while Generation X-ers will take on more executive roles. In order to keep their workforces stocked with talent, companies must find ways to attract younger candidates.
Millennials Aren't Asking for the Moon
Millennials aren't asking for many things that previous generations didn't want; they're simply more willing to hold out until they get what they want. Unemployment is low, and millennials make up more than one-third of the workforce. Millennials know these things, and they understand they hold a lot of power in their relationships with employers.
"While [millennials] have the same desire for work/life balance and personal growth as do Generation X and the boomers, their large numbers give them considerable influence to get what they want," says David Solot, senior vice president of client services for assessment and talent development software firm Caliper. "Prior generations had to conform to the workplace. Millennials can make the workplace conform to them."
In addition to the typical work/life balance and benefits packages, millennials are attracted to careers with room for growth. Companies that don't offer opportunities for advancement will have trouble attracting and retaining millennial talent.
"Millennials need to have proper onboarding plans from the start," says Solot. "This isn't orientation, where they are shown their desk and told how they can best do their job. Rather, they need to see a plan that shows how the company is going to help them grow as an individual. [The plan should] highlight when and how opportunities for advancement will be made available. This [plan] also needs to be part of the hiring pitch, or else they're likely to look elsewhere for a career."
Engage Millennials Before They Disengage With You
It's not uncommon for millennials to blend their personal and professional lives, Solot says.
"Millennials aren't just taking a job or starting a career – they are looking to be part of a family," he explains. "They expect their job to be an extension of who they are. Therefore, they need to be made part of the company social circle as well as their functional team."
This means millennials want to know about amenities and "extra-vocational activities" offered by an employer, Solot says. Charity initiatives, happy hours, social functions – all these things matter to millennials when they're on the hunt for a new role.
While members of the business press often talk about millennials as if they were from another solar system, the truth is, pleasing millennial talent isn't all that complicated.
"Millennials aren't looking for anything mysterious," says Solot. "They want their work to have meaning. They want to have good work/life balance. They want to grow and develop in their jobs."
Boomers and Gen. X-ers are by and large after the same things. Companies trying to cultivate alluring cultures need only embrace these elements.
"It can't be lip service – millennials are finely tuned lie detectors," Solot says. "It has to be genuine, and the culture needs to be enacted in everyday activities."
At the end of the day, building a culture that attracts millennials isn't all that difficult. Engage them. Provide work/life balance. Offer them ways to make a difference in the company and the world. This is what millennials want.