Is Your Company Ready to Welcome Millennials?

If your company is typical, the answer is probably NO! Few organizations welcome Millennials well. In fact, many companies consider Millennials the enemy and unwelcome outsiders.

are you ready to welcome Millennials? Traditional recruiting, hiring, and management techniques that survived the test of time are nearly worthless. Without an ambitious make-over of recruitment, selection, and talent management, almost every organization is facing an unprecedented disruption to life as usual.

Let’s take a look at a company called The American Dream or TAD for short. (The company is real – the name changed for anonymity.)

Tad was started over 40 years ago with a pocketful of change, a vision from its founder, and less than a handful of hard working employees.  And like many family owned businesses started in the 60s and 70s, the company was transitioned recently to the second generation.

Looking forward, its future is bright and on course for continued growth– if it can overcome one major hurdle.  Throughout its history HR was a business function that ran almost silently in the background. And that might be overstating it a bit.  For employees who worked hard and stayed the course, life-long employment was the reward. TAD had enviable metrics to prove it, too.

Long spans stretched between new hires, and most of them were hired to fill new job openings, not replace terminated workers. Employee turnover was almost non-existent and loyalty was the envy of all those businesses around them.  Once hired at TAD, employees stayed…and stayed… and stayed. For many of its 75 employees, this was often the first and last job they held.

TAD’s workforce, like that in many companies, is graying. Right now 32 percent of the workforce is over 60 years old, nearly half are 50-plus. At the other end of the generational spectrum only 2 employees are under 30 and less than 12 percent are under 40!

With retirements pending, TAD for the first time in its history is faced with replacing not one but a dozen or more employees. Within ten years, more than half of the workforce might need to be replaced. Some of these vacated jobs were held by the same person from the day the job was created.  Talk about culture shock when the replacement workers will be Millennials and Gen Z, two or more generations removed!

Fortunately, TAD’s management team recognizes HR cannot operate under the fallacy of it-is-business-as-usual. But like so many other businesses, it is also a bit fearful of the attitudes, work style, and life dreams of young workers.  That admission of the unknown may be exactly what the doctor ordered to find an effective fix.

With Millennials knocking at its door with every new job posting, 3 to 5 years, not decade-long careers, may be the best one can hope for.  What many companies experience these days when they attempt to replace a long-term employee is “churnover.” It’s not uncommon for an employer to replace one 30 year veteran with three or more employees within the first year.

Unfortunately churnover is often blamed on the Millennial attitude.  But that’s only partially true and a poor excuse for outdated and lazy management and strategy.

When a company like TAD uses time-tested-traditional recruiting methods to recruit in today’s labor market, their job opportunity message sounds like chalk screeching on a black board to the Millennial (if Millennials even know what that sounds like!) It’s the same theory that suggests shouting louder and speaking slower to get the attention of a deaf person! It doesn’t work…and worse, it frustrates both parties.

Recruiting in the Age of Googlization requires a re-examination of the screening and hiring process, on-boarding, and the preparation of supervisors to manage, engage, reward, and retain younger employees. Effective talent management isn’t just about replacing a body but hiring the right employee (regardless of age) who has the right abilities and skills and an attitude and behavior that fits with his co-workers and within the culture.

How ready is your company to recruit, welcome, and manage Millennials and Generation Z?

Walk in the shoes of a Millennial (and Gen Z).  Do a demographic analysis. Who will they see when they show up at your doorstep? What is the age distribution of your workforce?  How many 60 years and older workers do you employ compared to 30 years and under?  How many are in their 40s vs 50s?  The older the workforce and the longer they’ve been on your payroll, the more planning and adjustments you will likely face.

All risks are not equal. Identifying the age distribution of your workers is one step in the right direction. You could have a healthy distribution for all positions except one but that one vacant job could disrupt or curtail operations, production, or sales.  It is important to identify hard-to-fill key positions and have a plan ready for succession or recruitment without notice.

Readiness is more than a job posting. It’s inevitable that Millennials and even Gen Z will be the target of your next recruitment campaign? How prepared is your organization to recruit them? Is your website mobile ready and application process Millennial-friendly?  Are managers prepared to interview and on-board these young adults?  Will your workforce be welcoming or treat these new hires like flies at a picnic?

Within five years or less the scales will tip faster than it has in decades as the aging Baby Boomers retire and Millennials and Gen Z come on board.  Without preparation and training, management and its managers will experience a rude awakening.

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Ira S Wolfe