Millennials: Who Needs Them? Chances Are, You Do

by Roxanna Coldiron

When Millennials first entered the workforce, many employers dismissed them as unqualified and refused to hire them. Companies didn’t want to have to train new workers who had little to no experience in the field, and they certainly didn’t want to deal with the “Millennial attitude” and all it entailed. But this belief can now be a huge hindrance in growing your company. Keep in mind that the oldest Millennials have reached their mid-30s and have more than enough work experience, while younger Millennials can bring adaptability and their lifelong tech skills to the office. Millennials now outnumber both Generation X and Baby Boomers in the labor force, according to Pew Research. Ignoring them would be a huge mistake for this reason alone.

What happens to companies that don’t adapt? They become obsolete. Business that don’t adapt go the way of rotary phones, typewriters, pagers and 8-track tapes. You can think of any type of technology or industry that is no longer around because someone else invented a faster or better way of achieving the same goal, and those companies that didn’t adapt went out of business. Holding onto to the belief that Millennials (typically, those born between the early 1980s to the late 1990s) are not hireable for your company can easily mean the inevitable death of your business as your older workers start to retire. It’s also worth noting that Millennials won’t be “the kids” forever. Many of them are reaching their late 30s between now and 2020.

Millennials need to be part of your company’s hiring strategy. Take stock of how many of your current employees will be retiring in the next five to seven years. If many will reach retirement soon, it’s wise to think about who will replace these workers as they leave the company. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median age of the workforce will be mid-40s by the year 2024. That means that more mature workers will begin retiring at record rates, while older workers will be heading toward retirement.

And Baby Boomers happen to be retiring at a rapid rate. According to Investopedia, nearly 10,000 Baby Boomers retire from the labor force every day! The first quarter of 2016 saw an increase of 800,000 older Americans leaving the workforce, and this hasn’t been slowing down. Whereas Baby Boomers (born between 1946-1964) used to be the largest generation, Millennials now hold that designation. The youngest Millennial is now graduating from college, while the oldest Millennial has now reached mid-career level in most cases.

Think about the skills that your older workers will be taking with them when they retire. Baby Boomers were the generation that began working for a company straight out of high school and stayed for the entirety of their careers. This meant that they knew the ins and outs of every aspect of the business. Older employees have years of knowledge of the company that can be passed onto younger workers who join the company. It can also be a sharing experience as younger employees help older workers learn new technology that improve the efficiency of their jobs. One research study revealed that mature workers possess valuable crystallized intelligence (knowledge from experience) while sometimes lacking in fluid intelligence (ability to reason new or better ways of doing things). Hiring Millennials can help to close this gap by providing more fluid intelligence to the table.

Another question that companies should ask themselves is how long it takes to get someone up to speed on the company. Your onboarding process might need some work if new employees are unable to catch on to the company’s processes or understand the goals and mission of the company within a reasonable time. According to the Harvard Business Review, a successful onboarding process will give new employees clear expectations and allow them time to grow as they learn the ropes. It’s important to remember that it’s not really the job of colleges or universities to prepare employees to work specifically with your company, only to equip them with the ability to think creatively and critically about the world as well as basic work skills to get them started on their career journey. Employers should still be providing adequate training for new employees and ongoing development opportunities for all staff.

Does your talent stick around to learn these skills? During the onboarding process, new employees should be acquiring the skills and knowledge that they need to be the most productive for your company. But if you’re seeing employees leave soon after the onboarding process or within a year of employment at record numbers, the question to ask is why. Reasons for a high turnover rate at your company could be a lack of respect for your employees’ time or inadequate coaching and feedback.

Shortages of talent in your industry should be a focus. If you’ve noticed a shortage of talent in your industry and haven’t been able to fill certain jobs, then it might be time to develop recruiting strategies that appeal to Millennials and even Generation Z (who are still in middle and high school). Most companies need employees in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) fields, so investing in recruiting practices that appeal to STEM students makes plenty of business sense. Even creative industries have seen a high level of talent shortage! According to one survey, 71 percent of respondents had trouble filling marketing and creative positions within their company. It’s not that talented people are in short supply but that these people just don’t want to work for these companies or have been passed over for arbitrary reasons. This shortage might be the result of not being able to attract talented employees to the company.

So, what can employers do to attract and retain Millennials? One tool that companies can use is the ADP Engagement Meter that takes you through a series of questions to help your company determine strategies to improve your retention rates with employees. Options to explore include benefits, compensation, culture, flexibility, growth, recruitment and recognition. Find out what Millennials want, such as student loan paydown benefits or more flexibility at work. Improving your company culture and recruitment practices will go a long way to filling those talent gaps within your organization as Baby Boomers retire and Millennials begin to fill those positions.

The following example shows results for a mid-sized company in the finance and insurance industry with a focus on the onboarding process in recruitment.

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