Lisa Katz| Crain’s Detroit Blog

With the impending retirement of the baby boomer generation, techniques for attracting and retaining fresh, young millennial talent are becoming a popular topic of conversation. Currently, the split in the workforce is 44 percent boomers to 31 percent millennials, leading some to say that boomers are winning the generational war in the workplace.

Over the next several years, as they retire, the percentage of boomers in the workplace will drop significantly. As a result, companies are in a race against time to figure out what makes millennials tick before their current staff begin spending all their winters in Florida.

Some companies have resorted to spending large amounts on recruiters to hunt talent down on their behalf. Other companies with a reputation for being able to attract the best and the brightest — Google, Amazon, Apple and Detroit’s own Quicken Loans — also are not sparing any expense to make sure they have the leg up on the competition. These firms are known for their dynamic, fast-paced, high-energy environments, lush with perks like snack machines, employee meals, dry cleaning, fitness centers, nap pods, game rooms and truly cool (and free) company events. Google will even throw in free haircuts!

Many local companies are feeling the pressure to compete with the big boys, but the price tag to attract talent in this way is just too high. The good news is that there are other low- or no-cost ways to ensure that millennials will take a local offer into consideration.

By far and away, the No. 1 desire of millennials from their employer is flexibility. It is not that younger workers are not willing to work, but they do want to enjoy life while they do it. Companies that value the work-life balance, or at least are willing to be flexible, attract this generation.

One of the best ways to offer flexibility in scheduling is to allow employees to work virtually. According to Forbes, the ability to work remotely is considered a huge bonus to this generation and may make them more productive. Not only that, but this one factor has been shown to be key in the hiring decisions of many millennials, even if the competing job offers higher pay. A staggering 92 percent of millennials said they would prefer to work remotely.

Millennials also choose companies that provide a shared vision and meaningful work above those that do not. They want to have a positive effect on the company, the work or the community. “Multiple surveys and studies are indicating that millennials show an unprecedented concern for creating a positive social impact and working with organizations that fulfill their need to feel a sense of purpose in their lifetimes,” said Forbes. Companies committing to a business model that gives back to the community will sway millenials their way.

Another draw for millennials is a review and feedback model that allows for timely, constructive feedback. One expert on millennial hiring tips and practices goes as far as to say that millennials crave performance reviews. This relates back to the need to know that their work is meaningful — if the company is not paying enough attention to the cubicle farm to even provide feedback on the quality of work produced, a millennial is likely to seek other employment opportunities where their work will be valued.

Companies that consider adopting such policies as:

• allowing even a few days a week to work remotely,

• providing more and regular constructive feedback on performance,

• striving for a team-oriented atmosphere (do away with hierarchy),

• designing new employee recognition plans and

• investing in the local community and involving employees

will be creating an employment brand that will be the most effective (and cost-effective) recruiting tool available today. Hiring firms should not underestimate this power: 70 percent of millennials rely on referrals from friends and colleagues when attempting to find new or a change of employment.

As culture shifts toward ever-more reliance on technology, companies and working environments need to shift, too. Millennials have been saddled with the unfortunate task of paving the way for the generation behind them by slowly but surely changing the face of the workplace to fit this fast-paced, technological world. They have been called many things throughout this process, including lazy and narcissistic, but really, they are just trying to balance work and life in a way that is different from their predecessors.

An employment brand, especially one that represents flexibility, commitment to community and consistent performance feedback, will turn the tables — and give local businesses a cost-effective way to compete with the Googles of the world gobbling up all the good talent!

This blog post was prepared with research and content from Sarah Sebaly, project manager, Strategic Pathways, Workforce Intelligence Network.

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