When my oldest son was a teenager, he would hold his fingers in front of my face in the form of an “L” and call me a loser. (This was to remind me never to embarrass him by talking with him in public, again!)
Over years, parents have become used to this type of generation gap. But now, many small-business owners struggle to hire and retain these millennials who have entered the workforce.
As chef and restaurateur Marco Pierre White observes, "It's young men and women who interview you now, not the other way round [sic]. It's good that they want to know more about you and how you can progress their careers, but it's such a change from when I was starting out. My dad always told me that when someone's going to train you, there's two things you never ask: what are the hours and what's the pay”
To recruit and retain the best millennials, small-business owners need to better understand them. So, what makes this generation tick? What do they value most? And how can you attract them to your business—and keep them there?
1. An entrepreneurial spirit. They studied it in college and may have already started several small businesses on the side. They know all the famous success stories and grew up hearing about the cultures of Google and Amazon. They think that they understand the basic metrics of running a small company, and probably want to run one themselves one day—if they haven't already.
The attractor factor: Explain the overall company picture and how they will contribute to it and make a difference. While other generations may have been satisfied with being a small part of a whole, millennials want to understand the impact of their work so they can share it with their friends. Show them the importance of each role in the company and how those roles interact.
2. A small company with fewer employees. They're not willing to be just a number in a large corporation. They don't want their contribution and opinions to get lost in the larger crowd.
The attractor factor: Even if the company is rapidly growing, keep small workgroups of less than 25 people to create a favorable environment.
3. Frequent feedback from a boss. Gone are the days of the annual performance review. Gen Y grew up with “helicopter parents” who were always telling them how great they were.
The attractor factor: As Ken Blanchard often writes, give them feedback every week by walking around. They crave to know how they are doing and what actions they can take to improve. Make sure you give it to them.
4. A connected, social atmosphere. This is a connected group of employees and will socialize in the office and online.
The attractor factor: Encourage electronic communication by having private company-only Facebook pages or internal chats where GenY can express themselves daily about the company, how they feel and what they're doing.
5. A tech-friendly environment. They know how to use the most advanced technology tools and as a result are more connected to each other than any other generation. They are more likely to share what they think over social media. One study shows that 56 percent of Gen Y employees won’t accept employment that bans social media.
The attractor factor: Don’t ban social media at work, but have well-known rules. Give millennials a voice in the company’s social media feeds by asking for their participation.
6. Work-from-home and flexible-hour options. Unlike in the 1980s, Gen Y doesn't see the need to relocate to where their job is. As a result of the Internet, location is no longer associated with work. According to the recent PwC Next Gen: A Global Generational Study, 66 percent of Gen Y expects to be able to work flexible hours at home and in the office.
The attractor factor: Structure a position to find the best employee for the job regardless of location. Learn how to manage people remotely. (Read Remote: Office Not Required by Jason Fried.)
7. A chance to give to the greater good. Employees are traditionally driven by pay and promotions. However, Gen Y is also passionate about ways they can contribute positively to their world.
The attractor factor: Customers want to know how a company can solve their pain. Millennials wants to know how their company is going to make a difference in the world and what it values. For example, Infusionsoft helps small-business owners grow using its technology tools; but its mission and values, which talks more to the culture and appeals to Gen Y, includes “We do what we say we’ll do,” and “We check our egos at the door.”
How do you hire and retain millennials? Where have you had challenges and where have you been successful?
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