Tips on How IT Leaders Can Attract (and Retain) Millennials

Hiring and retaining millennials--young adults in their 20s--can be challenging for IT organizations that don't understand how to attract and engage them. While compensation remains important, millennials are really looking for social and fun workplaces with plenty of new challenges to tackle.

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Fri, July 20, 2012

CIO — If you lead an IT shop today, chances are at least some of the employees who report to you are millennials--young adults in their 20s. Millennials--also known as Generation Y--think about life and work differently than older boom and gen X employees, and hiring and retaining them requires management that understands their needs and a business environment to match, says Jim Finkelstein, president and CEO of FutureSense, a consulting firm the specializes in organization and people.

A recent survey of millennials in the workplace conducted by MTV found that most millennials believe the workplace should be social and enjoyable, and they want flexible hours and less governance over the projects to which they are assigned. About half say they would rather have no job than a job they hate, and nearly two-thirds believe they should be mentoring older coworkers when it comes to tech and getting things done.

Employers often take these attitudes to mean that millennials are lazy, cocky, unwilling to pay their dues and feel they are exempt from the rules. But Finkelstein, who has authored a book on how to tackle the "co-generational workplace," challenges those assumptions, believing employers should instead view them as hungry and more moldable than older and more seasoned IT professionals.

"Millennials should not be sold short as slacking, uninspired workers and be seen for what most of them are: innovative, creative and hungry for job roles that they can grow in in an ongoing capacity," says Finkelstein. "If these are employers' assumptions of the millennial work ethic, their employees are going to pick up on that, thus creating a workplace culture built on distrust and judgment from the get go, hindering a positive, productive exchange of thoughts, ideas and innovation."

In fact, given room to run, millennials may even prove more productive, Finkelstein says.

"They've got the ability to multitask because their brains have been wired differently from the get go," he says. "They've been in the computer age since they were born. They may actually get stuff done faster and more efficiently. We assume they're lazy because they're not going to come in and ask for more work. Well shame on us for not giving them more work."

Manage Your Employer Brand to Attract Millennials

First off, CIOs and other IT leaders need to get their heads around attracting millennials. Half of millennials would "rather have no job than a job they hate," according to the MTV study, and most consider loving what they do to be more important than a big salary or a big bonus. Millennials will flock to organizations with a reputation for doing fun or interesting work, but CIOs from other firms will have to aggressively manage their employer brand if they hope to attract top talent, Finkelstein says.

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