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5 key strategies On How To Attract, Onboard, And Unleash The Potential Of Our Millennial Generation?

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Today’s work environment is dramatically different than it was just fifteen years ago. Managing the needs of the different generations in the workplace is certainly not a new task for Human Resource professionals and Executives, but large-scale demographic changes coming in the near future will require special attention.

The “brain drain” issue is very real inside organizations and surrounding communities. The definition of Brain Drain commonly applies to the mass immigration of skilled talent from one country to another but this also applies to retention issues in organizations and communities. The Baby Boomers, born between 1946 and 1964, are 78 million strong and are retiring at an aggressive rate. The Bureau of Labor Statistics says the average large company will lose 30-40% of its workforce in the next 4-6 years. Pew research confirmed that as the year 2011 began on Jan. 1, the oldest members of the Baby Boom generation celebrated their 65th birthday. Starting that day and every day after for the following 19 years, 10,000 baby boomers continue to reach age 65. So the question is, “Where will your organization be replenishing this loss with a corresponding brain gain in the workplace? Who will lead your community?

I recently gave a keynote at The Suburban Millennial Conference in Long Island hosted by Hofstra University. Young people are fleeing Long Island at an alarming rate greater than the rest of the country. According to the Long Island Index, 15% of 20-34 year olds left Long Island during the last census period compared to a 5% increase in similar areas nationwide. The audience was comprised of leaders and residents working in government, private industry, education, small business, non-profit, technology and many other diverse industries and interests and everyone agreed that this issue requires a plan that brings together all stakeholders.

With these repeated waves of Baby Boomers entering retirement, the younger generations (Generation X and Y) are poised to replace them. A cultural shift is at hand that will demand an evolution in what companies offer: the benefits, the training, the prioritization of succession planning and what communities offer in terms of housing, jobs, access, convenience, and transportation. Any community and every organization is at risk of Boomer Brain Drain, so now is the time to unleash a strategy to invest in Millennial talent at the core.

A quick recap on both Generation X and Generation Y. Generation X is the Nike generation, born between 1965 and 1979 who learned to forge their own path at work… to just “Do It.” They are America’s “neglected” middle child. Gen Xers are bookended by two much larger generations – the Baby Boomers ahead and the Millennials behind – that are strikingly different from one another. This overlooked generation currently ranges in age from 35 to 50. In 2015, the first Generation Xers will turn 50 years old, meaning they are now old enough to get their AARP carrying cards. But they are also poised for great leadership – the average age of an S&P 1500 CEO is 50. And they’re already leading the majority of growing companies: 68% of Inc. 500 CEOs are Gen Xers.

Gen Y or more commonly known as The Millennial generation, are those born between 1980 and 2000, aged 15-35 years old. They are today’s youngest working segment, and they will also become the largest, an estimated 75% of the global workforce by 2030. Technology from MTV to the Internet put them in touch with the rest of the world at a moment’s notice, and as a result, they are much more curious about their impact and sense of belonging and prefer to be “citizens of the planet earth.” They played more soccer than baseball; they were the first to really watch and care about the World Cup. They wore and consumed global brands. Millennials are the most ethnically and racially diverse generation yet, and the most educated as indicated by the fact that 1 in 5 are college graduates. All of this is to say the youngest generation in today’s workforce is packed with power and potential. For everything they bring to the table, they value feedback, recognition, fulfillment, technology, fun and open-mindedness. The challenge for managers is to meet their high workplace standards and expectations.

So how do we leverage the power and prowess of our Baby Boomers and current leaders to attract, onboard and unleash the potential of our Millennial generation? I’d like to share 5 strategies to help you make this connection.

Strategy #1: Evolve your Management Mindset around Millennials

The biggest obstacle that stands in the way of attracting and developing top talent lies within management culture as currently there is a rather large disconnect between managers and Millennials. This will impact engagement and loyalty. It stems from a lack of understanding of what truly motivates this generation, both personally and professionally. To evolve your recruiting practices to best capture the attention of Milllennials, it is important to understand how today’s graduates define success as a beacon for their motivation. The next step is to understand the skills they bring to the workplace so you can prepare your management team for the onboarding and leadership processes that will lead to Millennials achieving their full productive potential for your company.

Barnes & Noble College recently partnered with Why Millennials Matter to survey students from two year and four-year colleges across 44 states about the topic of career success. The study, The College Student Mindset for Career Preparation & Success, received over 17,000 open-ended responses, including personal stories about motivation, the greatest influences on career goals and a ranking of the top factors these Millennials use when defining success. Ninety-two percent of the 3,000+ students who responded identified “personal fulfillment” as the top indicator of career success, far above financial rewards and public recognition. “Making a difference” trumped money, status and power, showing that they want to see a real connection between their work and their values.

The takeaway is that when Baby boomers retire and the torch is passed, companies need to provide platforms and formal opportunities to engage with Millennials. Encourage your management team to share stories and give firsthand accounts of how the company achieved its results. Without this engagement, as Baby Boomers retire, they walk out the door taking with them not only the most expertise, but also the secrets of your company’s success.

Strategy #2: Share your organization’s mission, value and impact during recruiting, then align it with every move the company makes

Make sure that your brand promise is clear both outside (customers) and inside (employees) your organization. Millennials want to work for and give their money to innovative companies that positively impact society. Don’t forget that you are on double duty to deliver the same values, message and brand integrity to customers as well as your own employees.

Strategy #3: Expand opportunities for young talent to experience career advancement

The Millennials who do find work in today’s leading companies are increasingly frustrated by the traditional career paths and limited developmental training opportunities. Millennials expect to be promoted quickly, with over a quarter believing advancement should come within a year or less. Sixty-five percent of juniors/seniors expect to be promoted in 2 years or less. Historically, career advancement was dependent upon seniority and time of service. Millennials, however, don’t think this way. They value results over tenure, and are sometimes frustrated with how long it takes to climb the proverbial ladder.

That said, plenty of talented young people are not waiting to be tapped to lead and are instead launching their own businesses, especially online, in every industry and across the globe. Carl Schramm, president and CEO of the Kauffman Foundation says, “Fifty-four percent of the nation’s Millennials either want to start a business or already have started one.” CBS news reported that one in five Millennials plan to quit their job and start a business but that they lack resources. Deloitte released a report on Millennials citing two key points: Millennials Value an Open, Transparent, Inclusive Leadership Style & They Know They Are Not Ready for Leadership, But They Want it Anyway.

Though this might seem presumptuous to some, Millennials are motivated by more than just titles and money. ‘Up’ isn’t the only way these days – there are other development options that can help an employee feel valued and that he or she has experienced growth. It is best to start with a conversation.

Strategy #4: Invest and build more programs for training and developing young talent

Management must focus on the right skills aligned with their specific team’s responsibilities immediately. Confidence has a huge impact on an individual’s perception of his or her own potential and the opportunities they believe are available to them. The students from our survey were concerned that their current skill set would not meet the standards recruiters and employers are looking for in new hires, but also showed that Millennials are extremely open and committed to training and development. Two thirds of students (66%) are concerned with having the necessary skills to perform their jobs well. As a result, many of today’s employers are passing over recent grads for open positions because they feel they aren’t ready – which affects not only recent grads, but college and university job placement rates.

Engaging employees of all generations is important but investing time with Millennials through mentoring, training and leadership development will unleash a new wave of innovation and creativity. The future of your business is dependent on how you approach this next generation of leaders.

It is important to note that Millennials think like entrepreneurs themselves. They are highly interested in a culture that allows them to learn and experiment on the job. They recognize that communication, leadership, project management and strategic business planning skills are valuable, and they want to see their employers are equally invested in them by providing training and development programs in these areas early on. Millennial managers will need to assess the specific areas in which young talent require targeted training and development and can then incorporate experiential learning throughout the orientation, on-boarding and development processes. Focus on building those skills immediately and outline a short- and/or long-term plan for their growth that involves coaching and feedback from you or other internal/external mentors and coaches. If your organization does not currently have an in house training program or the resources to develop one, there are plenty of approaches based in self-paced study and experiential learning practices.

To keep in mind: experiences are the new luxury item. Our youngest generation is far more apt to brag about what they did than what they bought.

Strategy #5: Provide tools and resources that build a strong community culture and bridge the communication gap amongst the generations

I believe we can create a common language amongst Millennials and Management to help them succeed as leaders and advance their organizations. We can inspire rising talent to better understand core business questions, allowing them to communicate and collaborate more effectively with tenured leadership.

It is for these reasons I championed for the release of The 5 Most Important Questions: Enduring Wisdom for Today’s Leaders, an updated version of Peter Drucker’s classic. Drucker’s timeless wisdom is just as credible to today’s business and leadership needs. It is also simple, which is what young leaders crave and tenured executives need in today’s cluttered information overload environment.

Drucker wrote the first edition as a tool for organizational assessment and to build a common language for strategic business discussions. It has been and should continue to be used to get input, clarify missions, establish targeted results, for future planning and to identify what the customer values. The new edition goes one step farther, serving also as a resource and conversational tool to support more effective business planning across multiple generations.

Why Millennials Matter and The Frances Hesselbein Leadership Institute are bound by a common mission to develop and make resources available to emerging leaders around the world, including books of this kind. I am inspired daily by my network of Millennials around the globe and hope to empower a whole new generation of Drucker and Hesselbein fans. My role is to help translate and connect Drucker’s wisdom and advice into the voice that is most applicable and relevant to young leaders.

So….Are you Millennial Ready?

Millennials are destined by sheer number to lead the world in every sector. Make sure your company is evolving to align itself with their values and facilitating a culture that will inspire and empower their growth as your future leaders. As a current leader in your organization, you can crack the code for recruitment and engagement by following these five strategies, which will allow you to stand out as a company and preferred brand by Millennials.

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Joan Snyder Kuhl
Joan Snyder Kuhl is a Millennial Career Expert with Barnes & Noble College and the founder of Why Millennials Matter. Barnes & Noble College and Why Millennials Matter partnered on a nationwide study to uncover what motivates, influences and matters to students as it relates to their career, garnering more than 3,000 responses from students at two- and four-year colleges and universities across 44 states.
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