Attracting and retaining Millennials in your workforce is essentially about meeting them on their terms—as prospects and as employees. This means going where they are (online) to get your message across about the advantages of your business as a career opportunity, and then making sure you deliver on your promises once a Millennial comes to work for you.

The promise that’s most attractive to a Millennial employee is rewarding work with opportunities to grow and make a social contribution. That promise can be especially challenging for large organisations steeped in hierarchy (like financial services) and for companies that are not perceived as particularly socially conscious (like financial services).

In my last post, I shared the results of Accenture’s 2016 report on what recent college graduates are looking for in terms of employment opportunities and career growth. In this post, I’ll offer suggestions for how to make your firm more attractive to Millennials—in both the short and long term.

It’s all about the experience

Accenture’s college graduate study reveals that this new generation is looking for a completely different kind of employee experience than generations in the past—and they won’t give up until they find it. It’s an experience based on personal connection (between employee and manager as well as between employee and colleagues), grounded in ongoing and hands-on experiential learning and growth, and directed towards making a purposeful and meaningful long term and socially responsible contribution. What follows are some suggestions for creating that kind of experience.

Getting their attention

It goes without saying that companies need to reach out to prospective Millennials through digital channels (including mobile), such as online job boards, LinkedIn sponsorship, and the company website, and make sure their messages reflect the key differentiators Millennials are looking for, such as social consciousness, growth opportunities, and an egalitarian and engaging work environment.

The messages are extremely important. No doubt the financial services industry has some hurdles to overcome in terms of public perception, which we’ve seen is a key employment decision-making factor for Millennials. Firms should ensure their value proposition and branding encompasses social responsibility efforts and conveys that financial services can help change people’s lives for the better, a motivating factor for a generation that wants to make a difference beyond their own benefit.

Financial services firms also have the opportunity to offer some unique benefit packages that could be very enticing to Millennials. For example, there is a general consensus among this generation that it is much harder for them than for any other generation in the past to participate in the housing market—buy a home and set themselves up for the future from a financial perspective. A financial services provider that includes benefit offerings that enable this participation is likely to stand out as an attractive option.

Keeping them happy

Next, companies (and large companies in particular) must transform themselves to create the type of work environment that will keep new employees fulfilled rather than inspiring them to job hop. While this might seem like a monumental task, especially in a traditionally-structured organisation, even small changes can make a big difference. For example, transitioning away from an emphasis on formalised training to more on-the-job type learning (such as job shadowing and rotational assignments) creates a more personal and meaningful learning experience.

Accenture’s report describes an emerging phenomenon called the “gig economy,” in which companies contract with individuals for short term employment based on projects rather than hiring them full time. While Millennials have little interest in this type of arrangement, the report proposes adopting an internal gig approach—offering employees varied paths to advancement, including project-based work and frequent lateral moves in addition to on-the-job training and other experiential learning opportunities. This approach can be especially advantageous to large companies that want to “feel” more like smaller companies.

Because Millennials thrive on feedback but they want it to be relationship-based and ongoing, HR professionals and first-line managers should help move the corporate culture away from regimented performance evaluation processes and instead encourage more regular and informal coaching, guidance, and mentoring opportunities. Without feedback, Millennials are at risk of disengaging. Taking proactive and regular steps to help them see how their job responsibilities contribute to the organisation’s goals keeps them feeling motivated and connected.

As a caveat, it’s important that all these efforts are genuine, become integrated into the culture, and are not simply an internal marketing or box ticking exercise.

Transformation works both ways

Attracting and retaining Millennials is about more than just transforming the workplace to make it more inviting for a new generation. As this generation progressively dominates the workforce over time, its influence will be transformative as well.

Businesses that cannot attract and appropriately reward and retain high-performing Millennial employees will undoubtedly suffer in the long run. The companies that lead in the future will most likely reflect the best of this new generation—purposeful idealism that does not preclude financial success, commitment to social responsibility, and a more egalitarian, inclusive, and enjoyable work environment for all.

To learn more about employing Millennials, please see:

Accenture 2016 College Grad Survey

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