Not since Generation X has modern media been so fixated with an age demographic. Bloggers and journalists treat the Millennial generation as something halfway between mystery and suspicion. Employers, marketers, and brand specialists swap almost-myths and hearsay of how to capture the elusive Millennial, swapping tactics like tackleboxes.
Employers need to change their messaging going forward to appeal to, attract, and retain Millennials. But there’s no secret path to capturing Millennial attention — it’s all about your message and your values offered; elements businesses would do well to focus on anyway.
More Than The Perks – The Security is What Keeps People
Learning how to attract an entire generation means looking at the common threads that define Canadian post-graduate demographics. And what defines an industry in a particular point of time than the state of the economy?
In particular, Millennials have the unique (dis)advantages of:
- A perceived weak and stagnant national economy;
- High degrees of debt, both student and personal, and;
- Greater career fluidity as traditional career paths erode.
These circumstances, along with a handful of other incidental factors, lead to a general career landscape that feels hostile, unrewarding, and insecure to anyone fresh out of school.
Canadian graduates spend, on average, four years out of school before reaching median income. The number is a bit less for STEM students, but even six months of uneasy job security can turn a worker off what could’ve been an otherwise fulfilling career path.
Security, in this sense, doesn’t necessarily need to refer to a fixed career track, but rather an overt effort on the part of the Employer to invest into their employees. Larger businesses may make do with employee review and mentorship programs.
Smaller businesses can imitate these long-term retention strategies with closed performance feedback and responsive structuring of development teams. After all, the more essential a Millennial worker feels in their workplace, the more secure they feel working for you.
Values Speak Louder Than Mission Statements
The worst thing a company’s mission statement can be is unapproachable. And yet, if you take a cross-section of startups in your area, you’ll find no shortage of mission statements drenched in trite, boring, and meaningless values, such as:
- “Our mission is to provide the best solutions for our customers”;
- “We value creative thinkers”;
- “We create an open dialogue with our users”;
Frankly, most Mission Statements are paint-by-numbers, and worth about just as much at the Dollar Store.
Millennials overwhelmingly are brand-conscious every moment of every day. They consider brands when shopping, when dining, and yes: when choosing where to work. The Intelligence Group’s 2016 study of Millennial work forces showed that 64% of Millennial workers wanted to use their career as an opportunity to make the world a better place. 72% see their career as an extension of their identity.
It seems that brand awareness plays a critical part in the development of Millennials who want to work for your company, and better yet, are invested in helping advance it. Compassionate work doesn’t need to be the be-all of company values, but employers should be willing to demonstrate the value of the work that they do as intangibles.
Forget profit: is your business creating new opportunities for others? Helping the community? These questions seem beneath consideration, but it’s a given today that Millennials are paying close attention to the kind of brand your project to the world at large. And a positive and engaging message is the one that’s going to attract the long-term talent.
Benefits Are Nice, But Personal Development Ranks Ahead
Every startup in Toronto offers either a ping-pong table, a foosball table, or alcohol on a Friday. These are great, wonderful perks to bring to a workplace. Unfortunately, you’re more likely to attract Baby Boomers with free beer than you are Millennials.
Contrary to popular perceptions, cheap perks do not entice Millennials — and in fact may play an adverse role in convincing Millennials of your company’s prospects. While “creative and fun” workspaces are a blooming trend among startups in the Toronto tech scene, they’re facile by nature.
Millennials are attracted by fun and creative environments, but they’re focusing on their work and not their play.
More than security or affinity values, the Intelligence Group found that the number one quality that remains attractive to Millennials is an environment that fosters skill development.
Theirs is the most highly educated generation in human history, born into a period of unprecedented material and technological growth. Naturally, their primary career goal is to one day be in charge of all this. That means environments where project development is collaborative rather than competitive (88% prefer the former). They prefer management that act as mentors rather than masters (89% prefer the “coach approach”). And similarly to identifying with your values: they want to grow into your company.
If a Millennial can’t grow into your company: they’ll soon grow out of it.
Millennials Don’t Stay Forever, But Their Networks Might
It’s happened. Even with good-faith efforts on your part, coupled with a positive and empowering work environment: you will bleed talent. Millennials still are, by and far, a workforce with one foot out the door. 44% of Millennial workers say they would leave their job within the next two years. It’s a revolving-door work environment.
Your exit strategy, should it come to that, is to not cut your talent loose from your network — even if they are no longer working for you. Millennials are ardent, born-and-raised social media users, with the fastest expanding professional and personal networks.
It can sometimes be awkward for an employer to stay in touch with an employee, even years after the employee has left, but the advantages in networking that it can provide you company is matched only by professional recruitment services (or so we like to brag!)
And above all: Millennials are venture consumers that continually blur the lines between life and work. The life they want to lead is informed by the work they want to do, and vice versa. Presenting yourself as capable and willing to invest into the next generation will give them the confidence to invest in you.