The rules of engagement

To better attract and engage the young, employers need to tap into the millennial start-up culture and trade in millennial currencies, so says Samantha Bond of Northstar Research writing in the International Journal of Market Research. Northstar recently conducted a study exploring the appeal and mentality of millennial start-up culture, which suggests that failure on the part of employers to tap into the millennial mindset could see countless young employees opt out of conventional employment, resulting in employers losing a huge cohort of top talent. Quoting a 2014 global survey by Deloitte, Bond found that 70 per cent of millennials see themselves working independently in the future.

Bond argues that many millennials are tired of waiting for companies to meet their expectations. Rather than traditional monetary incentives, millennials value passion, purpose, flexibility, transparency, collaboration, trust and autonomy but many employers are just not delivering on these things. So many millennials don’t plan to stay employed forever but instead plan to eventually set up on their own.

As someone who works in the recruitment communication industry helping employers grapple with the challenges of attracting and engaging talent through research, I was obviously keen to understand what exactly Bond thinks employers need to do to avert the “talent drain” and what a millennial start-up mentality actually involves.

Bond’s research suggests a two-fold change is needed in the approach to attracting young talent. Employers need to adapt and they need to learn new rules of engagement. They need to tap into millennials’ emotional drivers (in other words they need to strengthen their emotional intelligence). They need to bring millennials into the recruitment process. They need to utilise the psychology of belonging – provide a sense of togetherness and belonging. And they need to create an authentic and flexible working environment.

Specially, employers need to implement the following:

  • Company mission. At the heart of the business must be a company mission that invigorates and inspires
  • Inspirational CEO. The company mission must be embodied by a passionate and inspiring CEO who speaks with authenticity, conviction and drives change
  • Community and collaboration. Employers should aim to create a community – one of passionate, inspirational and collaborative individuals
  • Recruitment. Cultural fit should be the first screening criteria. In the spirit of teamwork, Millennials should be involved in the recruitment process – they will help employers authentically communicate reasons why millennials should join
  • Entrepreneurialism. Invite new recruits to take risks and make an impact. Create opportunities for young employees to establish themselves as industry influential by taking part in industry-wide initiatives such as speaking at conferences and entering industry awards. Encourage young employees to put forward new ideas and drive change
  • Autonomy and flexibility. Promote a results rather than hours focussed mentality. Trust young employees to be autonomous and follow their own working style
  • Transparency. Avoid a hierarchical approach to information sharing. Be transparent with all levels of the organisation. Young employees will feel trusted, valued and emotionally invested as a result.

millennialsWorking in the recruitment communications and insight sector, I know just how challenging attracting and retaining high calibre young talent is for employers. That 70 percent of millennials say they can see a day when they decide not to be employed anymore and work independently instead really brings this challenge home.

A more up to date 2016 survey by ManpowerGroup quotes a lower but no less sobering proportion of millennials planning to go it alone and walk away from the security of conventional employment. Questioning 19,000 millennials across the globe, Manpower discovered that more than half are willing to consider alternative employment options in the future, with 34 per cent thinking about self-employment.

Mara Swan, executive vice-president of global strategy and talent at ManpowerGroup, sums it up perfectly for me: “Employers need to listen up and get creative…we need new ways to motivate and engage employees”

Unfortunately, with people being what they are – creatures of habit and resistant to change – there will be some employers who talk about the issue but then sweep it under the carpet.  But for those who are willing to adapt and try and learn from current and aspiring millennial entrepreneurs, a great opportunity awaits to better attract high calibre young talent.