Developing a Learning Culture

How to Attract and Retain Millennials in the Workplace

Corporations, desperate for skilled labor, are searching all over the world for anyone who can think outside the box. The problem is, all of the ping pong tables, free lunches, and incentives in the world may attract the top talent, but it doesn’t make them stay. What’s the point of hiring innovative people if you put them into an environment that kills creativity? The only thing that keeps skilled millennials around is a culture built on transparency, mentorship and trust.

What Millennial Workers Want

The largest growing new workforce, made up largely of Millennials as Boomers age out, insists on a quid pro quo relationship with their employers, something pretty much unheard of until now. Millennials want the companies they work for to invest as much time and energy into them as they invest in the company.

We’ve written about the kinds of benefits that attract and retain Millennial workers: education, flexible work hours, volunteer opportunities and mentorship. How much time a company is willing to spend on its employees is directly correlated to how long they stay with the company.

Corporations are Desperate for Millennials

We all learned from Econ 101 that when demand is high and supply is short the cost of the goods goes up. Price Waterhouse Cooper (PwC) releases an Annual CEO Survey Report, which surveys leaders from the top Fortune 500 companies around the world. The PwC report found that “77% of CEOs are concerned that key skills shortages could impair their company’s growth…Creative, innovative leaders with emotional are in very short supply.” A look at Figure 9 below shows that the most important skill that top corporations are looking for is “Problem Solving.” The hardest ones to find are “Creativity and Innovation.”

What Corporations Are Doing Wrong

Creativity, innovation, problem-solving: these are soft skills that people aren’t born with—they learned it somewhere. Instead of investing time into their current employees or building into new hires, companies are trying to buy skilled employees for the quick fix. Look at Figure 11 below, also from the PwC report:

The largest number of CEOs surveyed said that they’re looking outside of the company for talent, even moving people in from overseas. These questions all have to do with recruiting more aggressively. Agreement drops off with questions about technology and its impact on hiring and company culture. While CEOs want more creative problem solving, they aren’t thinking outside of the box on how to solve their own problems.

Why Millennials Don’t Want Corporate Life

from Spencer Stuart’s 2016 Global Board of Director’s Survey shows that the problem with retaining top talent comes from the top. The report says, “Directors see their boards as having the strongest processes related to staying current with the company and the industry, compliance, financial planning, and board composition and weakest in cyber security, the evaluation of individual directors, CEO succession planning, and HR/talent management.” Corporations are patting themselves on the back for all of the operational and money stuff, but they’re failing at innovating with tech, transparency, accountability, mentorship, and training. It’s no wonder that they can’t attract and retain Millennials, for whom these things are the most important.

How Corporations Can Make It Work

Corporations want to hold onto a hyper-structured, low-tech, drone culture when it’s about as attractive as an assembly line. Leaders need to take a top-down approach to modernizing company culture. They can’t maintain an environment hostile to innovation and creativity while at the same trying to attract and retain it. By investing time and energy into their employees, they not only create the exact people they’re looking for, but they also provide the kind of culture that innovative, skilled people seek out.