Part 3 of 3: Why Hire Millennial Talent & How to Retain It

Be Different. Deliver Excellence.

Jun 13, 2017

Pictured Above: PathShare Team Arial Harland, Denise Miller and Sally Brause work together to strategize helping customer's hire and retain talent.

The Advantages of Millennials in the Workplace

One of the biggest challenges facing a business is hiring top talent. One of the second biggest challenges? Keeping that talent. With projections of nearly half of all U.S. workers being millennials by 2020, wouldn’t we all say it’s about time we focus in on how to attract and retain this substantial percentage of the workforce (PwC 2011 Report- Millennials at Work: Reshaping the Workplace)?

I am not about to go into a monologue about how you need to give millennials trophies for every ‘accomplishment’ or how you need to let us be the Executive V.P. of Awesomeness within our first six months, as cool as that would be. Instead, take my own personal story as evidence for how this generation really thinks.

My story may resonate deeply within the veins of my generation, and I hope others can bridge the gap between the generations. Bottom line, it speaks a truth we’re all beginning to recognize: Millennials are not better, they are not worse, they are just different.

My story starts with me as a young bright-eyed and bushy-tailed millennial ready to take on the world! Typical right? Well, let’s clear something up quick. What some may call entitled, I call tenacious. What some may call impatient, I call eager. Regardless of what anyone calls it, I still knew tenacity and eagerness wouldn’t be enough to land me my dream job. I choose instead to find my dream organization.

Having a Purpose

You do not have to be a nonprofit or have a mission of saving the world to be a dream organization. I found this for myself within a finance company, GreatAmerica Financial Services. I even started in sales, not my dream job. When I discovered GreatAmerica, I would have scrubbed the floors to be a part of this organization. That might seem too honest, but that’s exactly how I felt being offered a position.

I graciously accepted because I believe GreatAmerica is a dream organization not because of what they do, but how they do it. The second I walked in for my first interview as a prospective candidate I was welcomed by a very clear picture of their culture. I could tell they were planning for the future by focusing on developing their greatest assets; their people. I could see if I joined this organization, regardless of the position, they would stretch me until I grew in the direction I wanted to go. They cared about having the right people in the right seats equipped with the tools they needed to be successful.

Those are the things I fell in love with first at GreatAmerica. True to their culture, when a position within the Core HR team opened up I was able to move one step closer to my career aspirations after being in a sales role. Later in my career, a Human Resource & Organizational Development Consultant position was created on the PathShare® HR Services team. It was my ultimate dream job! A perfect blend of interacting with an industry I’d come to enjoy, and living the mission I believe in. The position was a seat suited to my educational background, natural abilities and personal passions. The genuine care for me being able to come to work as my very best self, doing what I do best every day, and continuing to grow professionally and as a person is what has kept my love for GreatAmerica.

If you want to attract and retain millennial talent draw upon these three key elements:

  1. Paint a Clear Picture
    • If you haven’t focused on culture as an organization, now is the time to do so. Having an intentionally-designed, strong, positive culture, well-aligned with your business model will attract millennials like nothing else. Unleash the passion, drive and the best energy they have to give by showing them a purpose they can connect to. Don’t just say you’re an XYZ company, tell them why that matters! Let them know how you are putting a mark on the world and explain to them specifically how their part in the story matters. Make it clear what you have to offer to help them achieve this mission.

      GreatAmerica built an entire culture around their mission, “We help our Customers achieve greater success.” I feel deeply connected to it and when I work with an organization I know the solution I bring is impacting their business. I know I am helping our customer solve some of their biggest challenges, and playing a part in their business being more successful more quickly. That’s what brings me into work excited every day, it’s the passion you hear in my voice when I talk about my job, and it’s the hook that originally reeled me in to GreatAmerica.

      Taking the time to build your story and weave it throughout the fiber of your organization will impact your ability to attract and retain the millennial talent you seek.
  2. Plan for the Future
    • If you don’t already have a plan in place for how development fits into your story, start designing processes that focus on how to develop your people. If you know your business will need to evolve to keep up with your competitors, won’t your people need to evolve as well? One way to plan for the future is to revamp your performance appraisal system. Create a performance and development plan. When the leaders within your organization do reviews, have them incorporate development goals. Have your leaders ask what skills the reviewee would like to acquire over the next 6-12 months, and have the leader provide their own input as well. Even better, have a question on your performance and development plan that asks where they’d like to be in the next 3-5 years within your company. Then together, design a road map to give them ownership over achieving those developmental and career goals.

      A large part of the GreatAmerica culture is the ability to own your future. We primarily hire from within, have a well-developed succession plan and put a large emphasis on getting the right people in the right seats. These are all aspects extremely attractive to me as a millennial who would rather grow inside one organization rather than hop from job to job to reach career goals.

      Build a plan for how you want to develop the talent within your organization, then explicitly express this when you talk to prospective candidates and watch as millennials flock in.
  3. Stretch to Grow
    • Maybe your organization isn’t one in which your employees can “climb the ladder,” so you don’t feel like the above really applies to you, but consider this: what ways can you stretch your people to give them the opportunity to grow in depth of knowledge, if not up in your organization? I recently attended a workshop on goal setting where the speaker said, “Right outside of your comfort zone? That’s where awesome happens.” He was so right! When was the last time you felt you truly grew as a person? I’d guess it was when you were faced with something difficult and uncomfortable. We flourish when we are pushed to be more. Giving assignments that require pushing past the edge of the familiar, using skills not used on a day-to-day basis, and truly pushing past our comfort zone is an excellent form of development.

      To verify my learning and to stretch me, my leader gave the task of presenting to a handful of our most senior leaders. Was this comfortable? Heck, no. Did I value the experience and grow from it? You bet I did. These are the types of development opportunities millennials are looking for and they do not necessarily require a title change.

      Start incorporating stretch goal assignments and guiding them as they grow. Reap the rewards by watching as your whole organization moves outside of comfortable and into awesome.

Be the Dream Organization

Millennials want purpose and they want development opportunities, but I don’t think they are the only generation who seek this from an employer. Remember I said millennials are not better, they are not worse, they are just different? I think the difference is that this is nonnegotiable for millennials, because if you don’t have purpose, and won’t invest in development, then the next employer will.

We want to work hard for you, be loyal to you and have our passion unleashed, but in a world as connected and fast-paced as the one millennials grew-up in, we simply won’t settle for working towards something that does not feel impactful and we do not have time to waste. We need to be constantly improving ourselves, our lives and our world.

To retain your top millennial talent, challenge yourself to be the dream organization in the next millennial’s story!

Related Articles: "Why Hire a Millennial"

Category: Personnel

About The Author

Arial Harland

Arial Harland is a Human Resources & Organizational Development Consultant with PathShare® HR Services Group at GreatAmerica Financial Services, where she enjoys fostering relationships with business owners by helping them with their organizational challenges. As a certified AVA Analyst, through Bizet Human Asset Management, she assists companies in building strong cohesive teams. She obtained her B.A. in Organizational Sciences and Psychology at Coe College and her Master of Organizational Leadership through St. Ambrose University, enabling her to aid companies in optimizing their greatest assets – their people. In 2018 she was named an industry “Difference Maker” in ENX Magazine, and she was also one of six named as an industry “Young Influencer” in The Cannata Report.