What makes millennials tick and how can we develop and retain the most talented?

As part of the excellent GTI Breakfast News series we wanted to share our thoughts on key elements that employers should be thinking about in relation to millennials and Generation Z.

According to the latest data released by the Association of Graduate Recruiters, on average a graduate costs £3,500 to recruit and £2,700 to develop. This is before you take into account how much you spent on campus in attraction strategies as well as annual salaries. Therefore if the majority of your graduate cohort gets the ‘two year itch’ and fly to pastures new, a huge investment in future talent is lost, in time as well as money.

By trying to get under the skin of what makes this millennial generation tick, we can adapt our strategies accordingly. Once we have completed the ‘easy’ job of recruiting them it’s all about three key elements to ensure retention: induction, development and ensuring long-term career opportunities.

Gaining a better understanding of the millennial generation is no easy task – just ask a parent of a twenty-something! But here’s our food for thought on the topic:

At GTI Recruiting Solutions we are able to access hugely powerful data through the trendence student survey. trendence surveys 40,000 UK students every year and gathers invaluable information on student behaviours. We also surveyed our own client base on their thoughts on the millennial generation and the actions they are already taking.

What follows is not an academic paper on the inner psychologies of those born after 1980, but some ideas to think about to close the gap between what the millennial generation want, and what we are giving them.

Rethinking induction – the first 100 days, not the first two weeks

Only 55% of graduates that we surveyed thought that university was providing them with the skills necessary to go into the labour market and, from a recruiter perspective, 68% of clients felt that graduates were not being equipped with the necessary tool box to hit the ground running on day one. Not a great start but surely we need to ask ourselves: is it actually the role of the university to ensure that their graduates are completely work-ready?

Universities seem to be coming under increasing scrutiny in all aspects of what they deliver – they are being pulled in all directions and being asked to deliver more and more with increasingly small budgets. Universities are, and should always be about learning. Learning how to lead a team, learning how to be part of a group, to analyse, critique and debate, but universities cannot be expected to get every graduate work-ready for every organisation.

This gap needs to be bridged by employers, supporting students to put their learnings into practice. The induction programme, therefore, is all about setting the trajectory of their learning. It’s not about their first week – an introduction to the company, systems and processes – it’s about their first 100 days. It’s here that the battle for engagement will be won or lost.

So what are the key elements of a good induction? There is no magic formula, but here are some core elements that we’ve seen work for our clients:

Career management – it’s important that we set expectations up front that an individual’s career is their responsibility, not anyone else’s. Being on a graduate scheme does not mean they will be successful. It’s their attitude that will ultimately define this. They may not get the project they want to work on, or the rotation into the ‘sexiest’ area of the business but everything is an opportunity to learn. We can support them by providing them with tools and techniques to help them manage their career such as:

• understanding their work values and personal skills/strengths
• goal setting
• career/action planning techniques

Key interpersonal skills-impact and communication – when graduates land in the workplace the majority of interactions they will have had up until that point will have been with their peers, people the same or similar age, and with what they will likely perceive as similar life experiences (remember that for millennials diversity is simply ‘normal’). Therefore, being suddenly faced with the whole hierarchy of the corporate world can leave them feeling lost at sea. We can support them in navigating their workplace, and their career by providing training to help them understand:

• how to make a positive impact − voice, body language, tone
• barriers to effective communication
• communication styles and how to use influencing for positive outcomes: upwards, peer to peer and downwards
• effective networking
• office etiquette and professional communication skills

Personal resilience – life isn’t fair, get used to it! Easier said than done for a generation that is often shielded from the concept of ‘winners and losers’. We therefore need to equip graduates with the tools to help them manage ‘failure’:
• managing stress
• action planning for success
• learning from mistakes
• giving and receiving feedback

Personal organisation and effectiveness – unfortunately working life isn’t easily divided into lectures, term time and holidays. However, while graduates may be adept at planning a revision schedule or getting to a lecture on time, mastering the art of managing an inbox, attending meetings and still getting anything done is a skill that even the most adept of us still struggle at. Teaching graduates simple techniques can make a real difference. These include:

• how to analyse and plan your working day
• managing your inbox
• prioritising

The great thing is that the majority of these sessions don’t need an external trainer, just experienced people in your organisation sharing their skills and experience of doing the things that most of us take for granted – just ask the busiest person you know how they manage their day and the insight can be enlightening. You also don’t need to lock your graduates in a room for weeks on end − running these as 90-minute sessions at regular intervals creates higher engagement, allows them to be run around day-to-day work and ensures they are high-energy and exciting!

Next time, we look at the development of graduates. Is the rotation scheme dead? What approach offers the best training platform for both organisation and entry-level talent? The debate is wide open and we will explore all options.

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