One of the topics most pressing on my mind these days is the battle for young, emerging talent and how fierce the competition is these days in certain sectors. Companies that win it are the ones that will succeed in the years and decades to come. So what is the key to first hiring and then unleashing the full potential of Millennials and thus building your future workforce? And what exactly are we doing about The Class of 2016, 2017?
First, understand where Millennials (this “label” seems outdated btw #justsayin) live. They’re the first generation to come of age in the mobile era, when even desktop computers are beginning to feel like relics of an earlier time. They have been living online for years – social networks, apps, and multitasking are as natural as breathing to them. They’ve also come of age in a time when the old employee-employer contract has become obsolete. Millennials don’t expect their employers to take care of them in the way previous generations did. They understand that we live in a freelance world, and their expectation is that they will move from company to company during their careers. They’re independent and savvy and can spot duplicity from a mile away.
Since they expect to be moving around during their careers, slowly increasing wages and perks don’t carry the same weight with them. My sense is this is now happening for every generation btw. We want meaning. They want to be fairly paid from day one, and come into an environment that is engaging, has a strong online presence, and allows for personal freedom and expression.
The great (not so) secret driver of Millennial (and every generation btw) engagement is emotion. In order to hook this free-spirited talent you need to win their hearts and souls, as well as their heads. Research has shown that emotional commitment is four times as strong as rational commitment (i.e. just a paycheck) in motivating stellar performance. People may stay at jobs because they have bills to pay, but they excel at jobs because their hearts are in it. This is a core truth that all great leaders know and act on. Work tirelessly to make jobs meaningful, tailoring them to the individual’s gifts and strengths; build synergistic, energetic teams; and articulate (and live) a mission that people can believe in.
To attract this talent, make sure you have a strong online presence on networking and social sites like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Experience.com. A robust and appealing online brand is crucial to making sure this talent finds you. Pay attention to your employer brand. This is so important now more than ever.
Once you’ve hired young talent, how do you hold onto it? Be straightforward and speedy. The pace of the world has accelerated and Millennials operate in real time. Feedback should be as immediate as possible. Annual or semi-annual reviews can be stale, and it’s better to correct problems as they arise. And managers and leaders need to establish an ongoing dialogue with talent about their career objectives. Become a partner in helping them reach their goals. Recognize good work immediately and reward it appropriately and with meaning.
To some leaders I’ve worked with, Millennials can sometimes seem like a different species. In some ways they are, and the specifics of their new paradigm in regards to work, online engagement, and career expectations must be factored into any company’s hiring and talent retention equation.
Major caveat: Yes, Millennials are different. All generations are. But I believe strongly, passionately, that beneath any generational divide, we all want the same from our jobs: to be engaged and fulfilled mind, body and soul. Leaders who can create a company culture that partners with its people to make this happen are not only far more likely to succeed, they are heroes.
A version of this post was first published on Forbes.com.