AJO Blog

Primary tabs

How To Find And Retain Talent In The Millennial Era


February 28th, 2019

- Updated on

April 1, 2019 - 8:46am
We all know that millennials are now the largest generational group in the workforce today. 
Millennials have risen to the ranks of executives, leaders, and decision-makers in their companies. Although they entered the workforce with a bad rap, they are now the talent that HR departments seek to recruit, onboard and partner with long term. 
Today we take a look at what talent management looks like in a workforce dominated by millennials, why talent management is important, and tips for small to medium-sized businesses (SMBs) to attract and retain talent in an increasingly tight labor market.
"The best workers do the best and the most work. But many companies do an awful job of finding and keeping them." - Scott Keller and Mary Meaney (McKinsey)

Why is Talent Management Important in the Millennial Era? 

In 2019, older millennials celebrate their 38th birthdays. Millennials on the younger end of the spectrum turned 22 years old. Some millennials have 15 years of professional work experience and others are barely graduating college. 
According to Aaron McEwan, HR advisory leader, CEB (now Gartner),
“The truth is, there are more in-group differences among millennials as a whole generation than there are between millennials and baby boomers.”
Millennials are just as different from each other as they are from older and younger generations but collectively, they are shaping workplace trends.
One such trend is high staff turnover. The number of Americans choosing to leave their jobs is greater than it has been for 17 years. The average job tenure of those ages 25 to 34 is less than three years according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. For the 55 to 64 age group, that tenure is three times higher at 10.1 years. High staff turnover costs the US economy about $160 billion a year. Low unemployment and skill shortages exacerbate the problem, making it critical for organizations to stem the flow of exiting employees. 
Strategic talent management is the key to reducing high staff turnover, requiring that organizations hire, train, and retain talent that will add the most value to their company. 
Here are four tips to find and retain the talent you need for growing your business.

#1 Be a Company Professionals Wants to Work For 

This means understanding, accommodating, and where possible capitalizing on the needs and changing expectations of employees today. For example:
  • Social Responsibility: Professionals expect more out of a job than a paycheck. Modern workers expect a purposeful company culture that embraces giving back and community investment. Companies that engage in corporate social responsibility (CSR) experience half as much staff turnover
  • Flexible Schedules & Remote Working: With the rise of cloud technology, most professionals work remotely to some extent and expect to have flexible schedules. One survey found that “policies that cultivate a flexible, fun, and casual work environment have a positive impact” on young professionals’ interest in prospective employers.
To attract the best talent, today's organizations need to develop a strong employer brand that clearly defines the value proposition for current and prospective employees. This includes viewing people holistically and realizing that their values, life outside work, and long-term goals matter. Through a strong company culture that embraces diversity, community service, innovation, etc., you will be better positioned to source future needs with employees who have shared values.
Equally important is the promise of interesting and challenging work, ongoing professional development, and career growth to ensure that you not only attract qualified employees but also that you hire employees will be more likely to stay long term.

#2 Talent Management Starts with Hiring Future Leaders

Talent management starts with the hiring process. Consider your growth and succession plans as you look for qualified talent. Will your new hires align with your future leadership needs, as well as the immediate job needs. This is the first step to strengthening your leadership and your teams. 
“… the single biggest constraint on the success of my organization is the ability to get and to hang on to enough of the right people.”  - Jim Collins
Sourcing successful leadership talent should be strategic in focus.
  • Assess the type of leaders your organization needs today and tomorrow. What skills, competencies, behaviors, and values are critical to success now and in the future? 
  • Train managers to hire for, and objectively assess leadership competencies, including the soft skills which can easily be overlooked in favor of technical skills and qualifications.  
  • Approach hiring as objectively as possible using assessments, structured panel interviews, and behavioral interview questions.
  • Leverage employee referrals, employee networks, and LinkedIn to identify and attract high potential talent to your organization. 
  • Look for diversity which among other benefits has been associated with innovation, greater profitability, and ability to attract talent
Whether you are pursuing active job seekers or passive candidates, whether you are evaluating internal candidates or external hires, the importance of being clear about the leadership success factors and putting in place the processes to identify them cannot be understated. As McKinsey's 'War for Talent Global Survey' reported, high performers in highly complex occupations are an astounding 800 percent more productive than average performers.  
 Photo by rawpixel.com from Pexels Photo by rawpixel.com from Pexels

#3 Train and Develop Your High-Potentials and Business Leaders

When it comes to developing leaders, AJO found that the most prevalent challenges for SMBs are a lack of budget/financial resources (56%); lack of time/HR resources (50%); and a fragmented approach (50%). (See The State of Leadership Development in Small and Mid-Sized Businesses.)
Hiring and onboarding talent is a significant investment. Ensure that new hires are successfully onboarded. AJO has proposed six steps to secure millennial talent and grow the skills needed for future leadership success. They suggest that small and mid-size companies might, in fact, have a millennial talent advantage. 
Consider how you will identify and develop your high-potentials (HIPOs), avoiding the pitfalls identified by Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman in their research. They asserted that more than 40% of individuals in HIPO programs may not belong there. 
Zenger and Folkman measured the leadership capability of 1,964 high potentials using a 360-degree assessment that included feedback from immediate managers, several peers, all direct reports, and former colleagues or subordinates, providing depth and breadth of insights. Their research revealed that HIPOs s were chosen not because they demonstrated leadership potential, but rather because they demonstrated these four characteristics:
  • Technical and professional expertise
  • Taking initiative and delivering results
  • Consistently honoring commitments
  • Fitting into the culture of the organization
They found that underperforming HIPOs were especially lacking in two skills: strategic vision and ability to motivate others. Zenger and Folkman recommended that when filling their HIPO programs, organizations should look for people who show signs of having these skills — which are very important as you climb the organizational ladder — and not place quite so much emphasis on things like cultural fit and individual results.
In its research, DDI uncovered 10 factors that distinguish high potentials. They identify five common challenges inherent in HIPO evaluation and nomination processes and offer recommended solutions.
Developmental opportunities should include lateral moves, special projects, and stretch assignments. Care needs to be exercised in identifying leaders, with career tracks for strong individual contributors who do not aspire to or possess the skills for leadership roles. Consider hiring a leadership coach and a mentor for your HIPOs and leaders. Training should be targeted to needs and incorporate micro-learning/just-in-time learning, learning experiences, leadership seminars, webinars, podcasts, etc.   
Corporate Learning Management Systems (LMS) are software solutions that enable companies to curate and facilitate online learning curriculum for trainees. Most LMS platforms feature tools like content creation and customization, content library management, course management, video learning, performance reporting and more.

#4 Use the Right Talent Management Tools For Succession Management

When companies create formal training and development programs, they are naturally paving a way for succession management. Succession management formalizes the process of training current employees, developing their skill sets, and grooming them for future leadership roles. Succession management may take years of investment in employees, yet less than half of businesses have a strategy for developing successors for key executive positions. 
Talent management software allows companies to build succession planning strategies by ranking candidates, managing and updating candidate profiles, and adding learning goals to candidates. Software platforms can help teams automate performance reviews, gather accurate data on performance, engage with employees, and identify high performers.
Talent management solutions not only support succession planning, but also streamline the entire process of recruiting, onboarding, and performance management. They are indispensable tools for talent management in the millennial era.
Companies that use an ROI approach to attract, retain and develop the talent needed to succeed and grow stand to outperform their peers. Remember that the loss of talent to competitors can have a lasting adverse impact on a small to mid-size company. 
"Small to mid-sized businesses that offer millennials hands-on learning opportunities, less structured job roles, more collaborative environments and a stronger reliance on technology to drive results can take a significant lead in attracting and retaining future talent”. -  Association for Corporate Growth

Brooklin Nash HeadshotBrooklin Nash focuses on helping companies build their online brand with an engaging content marketing approach. With a bent for SaaS and B2B tools, Brooklin enjoys staying up to date and what can help SMBs grow. He currently works and lives in Central America as a "digital transplant."