If you work for a recruiting or staffing agency, you have an opinion on Millennial – or Generation Y – candidates. For seasoned recruiters or staffing professionals, these candidates – born between the early 80s and early 90s – can bring a frustratingly unbalanced mix of confidence and entitlement. And of course, all the resulting headaches.
But is this a completely fair assessment of Generation Y recruiting? Or can staffers and recruiters relieve their headaches by taking time to better understand how the ‘wants’ of Generation Y sync with the ‘needs’ of clients? For help, I turned to consultant and author Alexia Vernon.
Called a “Moxie Maven” by the White House, since winning the Miss Junior America competition in college, Alexia Vernon has been working with companies, campuses, and community organizations to help develop successful, sustainable, and socially impactful employees and leaders. She has shared her advice with myriad media such as CNN, NBC, CBS MoneyWatch, FOX Business News, the Wall Street Journal, CareerBuilder.com, Monster.com, and Forbes.com.
She is also the author of Awaken Your CAREERpreneur: A Holistic Road Map to Climb from Your Calling to Your Career, and most recently, 90 Days 90 Ways: Onboard Young Professionals to Peak Performance.
Below, Alexia shares what your recruiting or staffing agency needs to know when onboarding Millennial workers:
Some have referred to Generation Y as the entitlement generation. Do you feel that the fault behind this admittedly broad definition rests more with Millennials themselves, or with traditional employers being hesitant to change their views?
Alexia Vernon: While I like to think of Generation Y (Gen Y) or Millennials as “creative, collaborative, and tech savvy” rather than “disrespectful, whiny, and entitled!” I believe that Gen Y’s bad rap stems equally from the fact that EVERY generation is a little rough around the edges when entering the workplace AND that Gen Y, overall, has been a very coddled generation.
Scheduled play dates. Trophies for everything short of breathing. Oprah playing on our TV’s when we got home from school. Why Gen Y behaves as it does though, honestly, is not so important (unless you’re a demographer or run a Gen Y consulting business like me!). What matters is that employers understand how to meet us where we are when we come in the door and co-create solutions to take us where we need to be in order to capitalize on our lauded potential.
It’s been said that money is not necessarily a primary motivator for Generation Y. It has also been said that Generation Y employees will stay at their first job for only about two years. How can employers retain the most skilled millennial employees, when traditional motivators are not what these employees are after?
AV: You are correct. Across studies, the #1 reason that Millennials consistently leave a job is because they no longer feel like they are learning and growing in their roles. And this is great news. Companies should not get in their own way of retaining top talent by moaning over the fact they don’t have the capacity to offer Millennials a raise or a promotion. Rather, employers have a real opportunity to put time and energy into ensuring that Millennials have opportunities to stretch. Whether that means participating in a formal learning and development program, sitting on a committee, spearheading a new project, or simply engaging in a mentoring relationship – it’s important that companies put their high-potential Millennials in these situations to keep them engaged and growing professionally and personally.
In your book, 90 Days, 90 Ways, you share strategies for employers to successfully onboard Generation Y workers. What advice would you offer to recruiters or staffing agencies that find themselves a few steps in front of the onboarding process, striving to effectively place the most skilled millennial candidates with appropriate employers?
AV: Look for a strong culture fit. While a candidate might look like a good fit for a company on paper – for it to be a long-term, mutually beneficial relationship, it’s important that an employee fits in at a deeper level. Make sure you know how your talent communicates, creates, learns, handles conflict, plays, and so forth so that you are effectively matchmaking.
Based on your experience, what would you consider to be the most significant hurdle for any millennial entering the workforce today?
AV: Unfortunately, I’ve been giving the same answer for the last 4 years. The economy. When you have less educational and professional experience than Baby Boomers, Gen X’ers, and even older Millennials who were laid off, became under employed, and/or are in the throes of reinventing themselves, you really need to be clear about how you are uniquely poised to deliver the value a company desires in order to stand out in the application process.
Similar to the question above, what would you consider to be the most significant challenge that employers or staffing agencies should be aware of, prior to hiring or placing a millennial worker, and how can this challenge be overcome?
AV: Companies that are employing Millennial talent should be aware that as a generation, Millennials have had fewer opportunities to hone face-to-face communication skills than any previous generation in our nation’s history. While Millennials love to work collaboratively, build relationships, and so forth, they typically have a lot of room for growth in their interpersonal communication. The good news is that high-impact communication is a skill. As long as companies are aware that their young employees need formal and informal opportunities to practice their 30-second introductions, negotiation, feedback, banter, and presentation skills, they can efficiently and effectively get their young employees producing the results they seek.