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Having just completed my first half-ironman in Muskoka, I was intrigued when I came across the caption “Millennials training for a career ultramarathon” in a recent ManpowerGroup report. What exactly is a career ultramarathon and how are Millennials training for it?  

Since I work in the predictive analytics industry and build projective models for our clients to assess the impact of various strategic decisions in hiring—understanding Millennials is necessary. According to a 2016 ManpowerGroup report, “Millennial Careers: 2020 Vision”, by 2020 Millennials will make up over a third of the global workforce.

It’s clear that hiring managers and recruiters need to be cognizant of how to attract and retain this generation.

What Are Millennials and What Makes Them Different in the Workforce?

Millennials, also known as Generation Y, are those born between the early 1980s to the mid-1990s. They are typically referred to as: “Generation Me”, or the work-hard, play-hard generation. They are the strong advocates of work-life balance.

If you google Millennials you will note a lot of negative stereotypes surrounding them, like “lazy”, “self-obsessed”, and “unproductive”. In the report by the ManpowerGroup, 19,000 Millennials were surveyed from 25 countries to provide insight on Millennials and how they compare to the rest of the workforce. The first thing that caught my attention was that Millennials are working just as hard as or even harder than other generations, with 73% reporting to work more than 40 hours a week. Millennials are also the most educated of the generations. So this is counterintuitive to being lazy and unproductive.

Another interesting finding in the report was that the majority of Millennials are not expecting an early retirement, but rather view their career path as constantly changing with intermittent breaks along the way. These breaks include women taking more time to care for children and/or aging parents, more “me time” such as travel or vacations, leisure activities, or returning to school to gain new skills. This is where the work hard and play hard attitude comes into play.

millenials workforce

So going back to the analogy of Millennials training for a career ultramarathon, I like to think of it as a career triathlon, where the tri-factors are what Millennials prioritize when looking for work: money, security, and time off. Two other key priorities identified in the report were: 1) working with great people, and 2) flexible work schedules.

I was surprised to see security as part of the trifecta for Millennials, mainly because you hear that they bounce around from job to job; however, it appears that as long as there is the opportunity to move up within an organization, 63% intend to stay. The majority of Millennials believe two years as standard of being in a single role before being promoted.

So what would make a Millennial stay with an organization? The top five responses were:

  1. Pay increase or bonus
  2. New challenge or promotion
  3. Better work-life balance
  4. Clear career path
  5. Being recognized by managers and colleagues

So with this in mind, the importance of succession planning is key when hiring Millennials.

Effective Retention

To learn about effective retention in more detail, visit our blog “Beyond Performance”.

One of the key steps in hiring is to identify if the candidate has the DNA to successfully perform the job they are being recruited for, and learn whether this DNA equates to successful advancement within the organization.

How can you measure or predict this?

This is where science and predictive analytics comes into play. A good psychometric profile can tell you whether or not a candidate is made up of key traits essential for a specific type of role. Research has shown that possessing key traits can predict performance.

After reviewing the quantitative results in the ManpowerGroup report and having a better understanding of Millennials, hiring managers/recruiters need to utilize the DNA of candidates along with the organization’s mission and succession plan to improve effective retention with this cohort.

Effective retention means hiring top performers and retaining them. To improve effective retention, managers should appreciate the divergent workforce, and understand the factors that contribute to retention. The Millennial population in their career marathon plan to work hard, and need to be recognized, provided with opportunities for growth, and have a work-life balance.

So does your organization fit with the Millennials’ needs? If your organization can offer them a competitive salary, room to grow, and new challenges, then you have fulfilled key areas.

What about Work-Life Balance?

The last vital component is an area that is still a big issue in many employers’ eyes, mainly with the Baby Boomers. Millennials are expecting work-life balance at the entry point of their careers, where Baby Boomers had to work their way up the corporate ladder to get that kind of autonomy. Incorporating work-from-home/satellite offices or flexible work hours is becoming the new norm or expectation among Millennials. Flexible hours or flexi-time is staggered start times like 10am to 6pm, or compressed work weeks where you work four 10 hour days.

hiring and retaining millenials

The main benefits of adopting work-from-home or flex-hours for the employee are work-life balance advantages such as:

  • Taking a child to school
  • Making time for leisure activities/sports
  • Avoiding the rush-hour commute
  • Escape from the everyday disruptions of the office environment
  • Ability to schedule work during quiet times to accomplish more

Advantages to the employer include:

  • Being able to schedule work across longer portions of the day
  • Attracting and retaining valued employees who have other commitments or interests
  • Reduced absenteeism and/or lateness
  • Increased productivity because of fewer distractions or interactions between colleagues
  • Making efficient use of facilities

Work-life balance may be better characterized at “work-life integration”. Millennials will work at home, but they’ll want flexibility on the job too. The two spheres overlap, and with new technologies that make both work and play possible from anywhere at any time, we need to embrace a more nuanced vision of what balance – or integration – looks like.

Do Millennials Have the DNA?

Do Millennials have the DNA to be successful in the role? Will they be a good fit to the organization, or more importantly, will the organization be a good fit to them?

Don’t dismiss Millennials based on negative stereotypes. Millennials have the DNA for great careers! In fact, the traits of Millennials line up very well with the traits of self-managers (which is the #1 crucial trait for top performers!).

A Millennial with these traits would do well in any career (such as sales careers) where they can control their time, operate independently, and self-manage their goals.

With good selection or career management tools, you can identify the Millennials with the DNA to succeed in your organization.

The People-First Model

In conclusion, the key to attracting and retaining high performing Millennials is ensuring your business has adopted the people-first model versus the archaic command-and-control leadership model.

In my opinion, the expectations and needs of Millennials are not at all far-fetched, and mimic my own expectations for my “career ultramarathon”.

It is human nature to enjoy work, and people are the happiest when they are working. If your Millennial employees are happy, engaged, and motivated, both the company and clients will be happier.

SMG has over 35 years of data and research on the characteristics of top performers, particularly in sales roles. Contact us today to find out how we can help your company hire and retain top performing employees – including Millennials!

Download our FREE eBook: An Introduction to Selecting Sales Professionals.

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Kristina Calder

About Kristina Calder

Kristina is a data scientist and consultant, specializing in talent analytics, organizational development, and leadership training. As a Senior Consultant, Talent Analytics at SMG, she conducts validation studies using big data and predictive analysis.

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