by Sharon Florentine

How to win the hiring war for graduating millennials

Jun 09, 2015
CareersIT JobsIT Leadership

The class of 2015 is more than prepared for their new roles as STEM employees. The question is, are you ready to attract and retain them?

The class of 2015 has done its homework. According to research from the Accenture Strategy 2015 U.S. College Graduate Employment Study, new grads have responded to the growing need for STEM degrees. They’re thinking about the potential for a long-term career before choosing their major. They’re pursuing internships and ongoing training opportunities. And, for the most part, colleges are successfully preparing them for jobs and careers and are helping them look for work.

Hiring companies, though, need to step up their game if they want to attract and retain these workers, according to the Accenture study. The study revealed that many recent grads are underemployed; their salaries are low and they’re not being offered learning, education and growth opportunities that advance their careers. In addition, the survey found that entry-level workers are turning away from traditional sectors like energy, insurance, banking and communications in favor of flashier startups, which could spell disaster for larger, more established companies that still need talented, highly educated and motivated workers.

In other words, according to the Accenture study, “… new college graduates have been doing everything they can to strengthen their link in the overall talent supply chain. Colleges are showing improvements as well. But employers’ lack of commitment and investment in entry-level jobs makes them the weakest link in the chain.”

So what can businesses do to improve their odds of landing class of 2015 grads? They can make a concerted effort to address the needs of this demographic and differentiate themselves based on how they attract, retain and develop their entry-level talent, says Alys Scott, CMOat human capital management technology firm PeopleFluent.

Look beyond the biases

There are definite biases against entry-level talent in the workforce millennials, says Scott. But if those biases are stripped away, organizations will find that this next generation is a major boon to their ability to grow and thrive, she says, because of their ambition, their engagement and their willingness to take risks.

“Especially in more traditional, larger firms, the biases against millennials are really pervasive. They’re supposedly entitled, self-absorbed, hard to manage and demanding. But for me, a lot of my workforce is made up of millennials, and I see them as flexible, outspoken, motivated and extremely engaged. So, it comes down to a discomfort with change and companies need to understand how to best manage these ambitious, bright, entrepreneurial folks,” Scott says.

Millennials aren’t as willing as previous generations to simply accept the status quo, according to Scott. Millennials tend to show a higher turnover rate than older generations because they not only want to make a difference at work, they will leave for greener pastures if they feel they’re not being afforded the flexibility, time and support to do so.

“Work is much more than just a job for millennials, so it’s really important to have a dedicated, visible and authentic means by which to help them achieve success at work and to integrate that with success in their lives. You must include them in decision-making and strategy and help them understand their part in the greater whole of the businesses if you want to engage them and retain them,” she says.

Incorporate technology

Part of that engagement and retention process involves using the right technology. While some of that effort should be towards simplifying and streamlining outdated processes and practices, there should also be initiatives toward integrating technology that’s appropriate for this generation.

“Millennials are digital, social and visual natives. Their whole lives have been experienced at the intersection of consumer and enterprise technology, and they see it not just as a tool for getting things done, it’s how their entire generation communicates, shares knowledge, collaborates and learns. So, why shouldn’t it also be how they work?” Scott says.

Of course, this can be a major structural change for many businesses used to powering down at the end of the work day, but attracting and retaining the next generation of talent demand that organizations leverage technology at every phase of a worker’s career; from recruiting and hiring to onboarding to daily workload to growth and learning initiatives.

Provide meaning and purpose

Millennials are a passionate, committed group, says Scott, and that doesn’t apply just to their personal lives. Helping millennials understand how their role in an organization shapes the big picture and contributes to overall success can go a long way toward attracting and retaining talent, she says.

“These folks are so passionate – they’re registered to vote in huge numbers. They’ve grown up doing community service and participating in causes and social betterment issues. They’re devoted to making the world a better place. If you, as a business, can harness that drive and that power and passion, you’re going to see fantastic outcomes,” says Scott.

Try offering community service days, fundraisers or other social campaigns in your organization, Scott says. It will help differentiate you as an employer of choice if you can prove you’re not only focused on the ins and outs of your business, but on the impact you have on the world at large. When millennials search for a higher purpose in their work that aligns philosophically with who they are as a person, and with their own mission and values, you want to them to think of your company, she says.

Improve salary

That’s not to say that salary isn’t important for attracting and retaining entry-level talent, says Scott. While millennials are searching for purpose and meaning in their work, they’re also digitally savvy enough to understand what they are worth and their value in the marketplace.

Salary shouldn’t be the only factor, but it should be a part of your overall recruitment strategy. Even entry-level talent knows what they should be making, and what similar jobs are paying.

“Don’t fall into the trap of thinking, ‘Well, this low offer’s still great because this candidate was working at a coffee shop making minimum wage’ — yes, you’re probably a step up from that, but if you want talent to stay long-term, it’s worth boosting your entry-level salaries now instead of when salary pressure really comes to bear as the market improves,” says Jason Berkowitz, vice president of client services for recruitment process outsourcing firm Seven Step RPO.

Offer education and training

One of the most important ways to attract and retain talent is through continuous learning, education and training, says Scott. For millennials, especially, their aspirations are built around inspiration – they need to see the larger outcomes of their work and to be able to plan out a long-term growth and development strategy.

“I hear this from my colleagues all the time – they want ongoing, informal and continuous feedback that will help them grow in their job and help them learn,” says Scott. “They want to go beyond the once- or twice-a-year performance reviews and have ongoing conversations about where they are and where they’re going. They also want structured training and learning opportunities,” she says, and that’s a great investment for your business to make.

“If I had a business and the choice was to allocate a couple thousand extra dollars a year into employees’ salary or toward their training, I’d go with training every single time. There’s always going be a competitor out there who can pay more, but your employees aren’t going to leave you for that competitor if you’re investing in them. You get repaid by increasing their qualifications, their skills and their loyalty,” says Berkowitz.

Millennials want what everyone else does, says Scott: interesting, challenging, meaningful work at a fair salary with the chance to grow and learn. If you’re not giving that to your talent, you’re going to miss out.