The Future of Work: Effectively Recruiting Millennials

Much digital ink has been spilled going into things that are important to recruit younger talent to your workplace. Add these to the professional development and career advancement/mobility at your organization and I believe you will be in top form to recruit great talent.

Let me start off this post with my usual caveat when it comes to using the term Millennials (or Gen X or Baby Boomers)…I dislike using these categories. They are a rather blunt instrument for separating out groups of people, groups which are often not as differentiated from each other as the groupings would imply. However, to say that there are no differences between a 20-something employee and a 50-something employee would be inaccurate as well. There are some clear differences in work preferences between older employees and younger employees which savvy companies and managers should recognize and respect. At baseline I believe the things that motivate younger employees also motivate older ones; the differences are in how that motivation can best be harnessed.

Much digital ink has been spilled going into things that are important to recruit younger talent to your workplace. I have pointed out that offering professional development and opportunities for advancement are key. I maintain these motivators are less about the fact that younger talent is a different generation than it is about the context of the working world today vs. the working world thirty years ago. But not all of the information out there is good advice; how many companies are simply installing ping-pong tables or coffee bars and calling it a day? Many others have pointed out, myself included, the idiocy of mistaking such actions for a talent recruiting program.

The Future of Work Podcast recently featured a conversation with Bask Iyer, CIO and Vice President of VMware, which focused on how Millennials are changing the way organizations recruit and retain top talent. The FOW podcast is a refreshing listen for those of us who want to see change in the workplace. With its goal of future-proofing your career, it is a great source of inspiration and real-world experience from people and companies who are on the leading edge of some of the biggest work-related changes in decades. The podcast is great overall, and you should take a listen if you haven’t.  But this episode with Bask Iyer was particularly satisfying and inspirational for anyone who has ever thought about how to recruit and retain better talent to your organization.

Jacob and Bask covered so much ground in the podcast that it would be futile to try and compress it all down into one blog post. However, there were a few things that they discussed which I feel are strong points on how businesses can effectively recruit and retain top talent, especially Millennials and Millennials-at-heart. Add these to the professional development and career advancement/mobility at your organization and I believe you will be in top form to recruit great talent:

  • Be Authentic
    Bask points out that it’s not enough for employers fighting to recruit talent to simply talk a good game; they have to follow through. Social Media and websites like GlassDoor make it impossible for you to make all kinds of promises to new hires that you don’t keep, because the word is going to spread through these venues and your reputation will suffer for it. In addition, Millennials have finely-tuned B.S. senors, the result of having been advertised to for their entire lives. This is the generation that made The Daily Show and The Colbert Report the powerhouses of media and information that they are. Though they aren’t on the air in the same ways anymore, the cynical, satirical outlook of those shows lives on for Millennials in their daily lives, and we know when we are being fed a line of B.S. As Bask recommends, if you don’t authentically believe in providing the things necessary to recruit top talent, you have the choice of either making yourself believe it or removing yourself from the process and putting in someone who does to achieve lasting change.
    Bottom Line: You have to Walk your Talk.

  • Community Service
    A strong motivation for employees, younger as well as older, is to believe that the work they are doing benefits not only themselves, but others. Especially for younger employees, a sense of purpose in their work is key. Simply feeling like you are a cog in a machine, doing something that makes no difference to anyone else is disheartening and a motivation killer. Bask not only discusses the community service opportunities VMware provides, but also how employees can suggest new ones or use their creativity to address new problems as they find them with the full support of the company. It’s not about “encouraging” employees to participate in charity work by requiring a certain number of hours per year; it’s about actively seeking out new opportunities from your employees and providing the help and support those employees need to address their community service goals.
    Bottom Line: It’s not about requiring service…it’s about inspiring service. 
  • Don’t Be Legal: Be Good
    I feel like this is a shift directly out of The Great Recession: It’s not enough to be legal…an employee needs to know that their employer is good. Bask points out that no one likes working for a bad guy, and once upon a time all you needed to do was be “legal” or “compliant” to not be a bad guy. But Millennials especially experienced their formative years watching the economy and industry after industry (from banking to energy to healthcare) implode around them, despite the fact that those businesses were operating “legally” or “within full compliance” at the time. Today, Bask emphasizes, not breaking the law isn’t enough: Employers need to be good by operating in ways that show concern for the outcomes of their decisions and demonstrate responsibility to society.
    Bottom Line: Just because you can do something, doesn’t mean you should.

Keeping these great tips from Bask in mind will put your company in a strong position to attract and retain top talent. Check out the podcast to hear the entire conversation. I guarantee you will walk away inspired!





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