The "Greatest Generation" went from the war to the workplace, taking advantage of rapid post-war growth in the late '40s and '50s to nail down jobs for life with pensions upon retirement. Today's millennial generation has never known that type of work environment, and the stick-with-one-company mentality of the June Cleaver generation is not as common as it once was.
During the brief span from just after World War II up until the '70s, loyalty to one's employer was expected, and those who switched jobs every few years were seen as unreliable "job hoppers." Today of course, working in one place for 30 years is a rare exception, and the millennials – more than any other generation that preceded them – have changed the game.
According to a Gallup report, 21 percent of millennial workers left their jobs in the past year to do something else – about three times the number of non-millennial workers who did the same thing.
"Millennials are definitely shaking things up," says Alan Blashaw, cofounder of EquityOwl, a platform that allows startups to trade equity for top talent and services. "They seem to love clarity and transparency. They want to know how their job and skills ultimately contribute to the larger vision of the company. This, more than the dollar amount of their paycheck, defines their self-perception of value. Furthermore, they value organizations that have personalities. A company with a personality seems more trustworthy, both toward the employee and consumer, than a faceless corporation [does]."
And according to Blashaw, hiring managers and recruiters are adapting to this mindset: "Hiring and recruiting are definitely adjusting to address these priorities. You'll notice that many company recruitment pages have opted to use less formal language. This makes a company seem more personable and friendly. This even extends to the interview, where questions have evolved to create more of a conversation than an interrogation."
Another way hiring managers are adapting is by striking a balance between having that conversation and using software to manage the process.
"While the first wave of recruiting software sought to automate the process to the point of becoming impersonalized, today's recruitment software offerings are giving hiring managers access to big data, the ability to spot new trends, and gain valuable insights into how they may better attract the best employees," says Jeev Trika, CEO of CrowdReviews.com, an online platform offering B2B reviews.
What makes millennials successful today is that they live in what Pierre Tremblay, director of HR at Dupray, calls a "high-twitch world, where the sum of all human knowledge is available by asking a question through Siri."
Tremblay sees about 500 resumes a month. A millennial himself, Tremblay says, "We started working during the technological era, but we also know how to get up and change the channel. Most millennials started their careers just at the cusp of the massive technological advancement. They understand how the technology works, and they use it efficiently. They have the 'best of both generations' mentality. They were raised with the baby boomers' 'American Dream' mentality, sprinkled with their own techno-world Twittersphere."
What's in It for Me?
Fifty years ago, conventional wisdom held that when applying for a job, a candidate should focus on what they can do for the company, not what the company can do for them. Millennial wisdom has finally turned that one-sided process around, and hiring managers now need to be able to answer the question, "What can we do as a company to convince you to come on board?"
"One of the coolest, most unique tools that employers are using today is to show the landscape and work environment that they are working in," Tremblay says.
This may include a recruitment video or even personalized photos that target specific candidates. Tremblay understands the importance of meeting the millennials on their own turf when it comes to recruiting, and one of the benefits they offer at Dupray is a home cleaning service.
"Today, most employees are rarely home," Tremblay says. "People value their time and attempt to maximize efficiency toward pleasure and work. Accordingly, we've noticed that many millennials simply slack on cleaning their home."
What's even more important is that those millennials want to be engaged – and according to the Gallup report, millennials want more than just a paycheck and a gold watch at the end of the road. They want a purpose.
"For [m]illennials, compensation is important and must be fair, but it's no longer the driver. The emphasis for this generation has switched from paycheck to purpose," the report says.
But as much as they want that engagement, millennials are the least engaged generation in the workforce, with the Gallup study noting that only 29 percent of millennials are engaged at work.
The Gallup report also noted that the traditional annual review is falling by the wayside, as millennials look more for meaningful ongoing conversations and feedback in real time. Annual reviews just don't work for a cohort that is accustomed to constant and immediate communication. That relationship between employer and employee has always been important, and Gallup states that 44 percent of millennials who have regular meetings with their managers report feeling engaged, while only 20 percent who do not have regular meetings feel engaged.
It's not an entitlement mentality – rather, millennials feel indifferent. While they may not want to switch jobs, their employers simply aren't providing them with any compelling reasons to stay put. It's not that they want more than earlier generations did – they just want jobs that feel worthwhile to them. Hiring managers need to provide that sense of engagement if they want to retain top talent.
Dan Blacharski is a thought leader, advisor, industry observer, and PR counsel to several Internet startups.