Strategies for Recruiting a Multi-Generational Workforce|Strategies for Recruiting a Multi-Generational Workforce

Strategies for Recruiting a Multi-Generational Workforce

These days, you can’t scan your emails or news sites without running into an article about Millennials – those 20-somethings who are entering the workforce in droves. From their spending habits to their use of technology and beyond, we all want to know what makes this generation tick so that we can attract talented candidates.

That said, at Eliassen Group, we prefer to take a more holistic approach to the challenge of recruiting and retaining great talent that not only considers the Millennial generation but looks at the needs of each generation of workers. Clearly, what attracts a 25-year old software developer to a long-term role is not the same as what attracts a 47-year old VP of Engineering to a company and career opportunity.

Now, let’s take this one step further and acknowledge that what might attract someone of any generation to a particular career opportunity is not necessarily what will keep them at that same company longer term. After all, that Millennial may be tempted to move on after a year without any strong reasons to stay. And that seasoned VP will likely be highly sought after as she builds a strong network and a personal brand.

So how do you develop a recruiting strategy that attracts professionals at all levels and then build programs to retain great employees? The following is the first in our series that will help you think more broadly about these efforts and develop programs that will appeal to prospective candidates, as well as your existing workforce.

Part One: Millennials

Let’s start by outlining what we know about Millennial job candidates. According to CIO Online, the following factors are essential to this generation as they seek out career opportunities. They tend to favor companies that:

  1. Offer growth opportunities. CIO quotes a PWC study that states 52 percent of Millennials polled noted growth opportunities as a strong motivating factor to accept a job with an employer.
  2. Maintain transparency. An open atmosphere of trust and sharing of information is key for this generation.
  3. Focus less hierarchy and offer greater insights into career paths. Millennials want to understand what their career trajectory looks like.
  4. Mentor. Traditional mentoring programs are fantastic but more companies are recognizing the value of reverse mentoring where their organizations are able to learn from younger generations, as well as seasoned experts. Each group has a great deal to offer the other.
  5. Engage digitally. Millennials expect to have open, honest conversations and engage with companies online. So it’s critical to understand how and where they are spending their time and engage with them.

Now that we understand what’s important to this generation as they seek career opportunities, we can dive into more detail about how to attract this group and what it takes to keep them on board.

What kinds of recruiting programs can help in attracting Millennials?

The traditional approach in recruiting and hiring recent college graduates typically involves bringing them on board, having them shadow experienced employees and then sending them to a cubicle to dive in. But we see a great deal of turnover for companies who take this approach with the Millennial generation. So a number of years ago, Eliassen Group implemented a Resource Specialist Program that is specifically geared towards attracting the next generation of talent. Since its inception, the program has evolved and goes well beyond the standard “on the job” training program.

Rather than just training recent college graduates to become recruiters, we take a “long tail” approach by immersing them in our company and culture, as well as the recruiting industry. We have realized along the way that this younger workforce does not want to simply take a job with specific tasks that they will perform for the next few years; they want to see the possibilities and how this program – and the resulting job opportunity - will fit in with their career plans.

In analyzing the results of this program, we have retained 80% of our resource specialists who have gone on to become recruiters and account executives. And of this group, some have decided to specialize in specific areas of the business such as Life Sciences and Agile development recruiting. Others have helped us to establish and grow our business in new geographic areas. Programs like these help young professionals to see the possibilities and help us to not only assist them with their career goals but also help us to be more opportunistic as an organization. Our Millennial group is helping us to evolve and shape what’s next which is incredibly powerful for all involved.

The bottom line is that it’s critical to marry the needs of this younger generation – which we know are decidedly different from those of older generations – with innovative new programs that really bring out their strengths and also help achieve strategic business objectives for your organization.

How can you retain Millennial talent?

Retaining your top talent is always top of mind but it’s an even greater challenge when it comes to your younger employees. The data from a CareerBuilder study in 2014 tells us that by the age of 35, 25 percent of workers have held five jobs or more. So how do you put benefits and initiatives in place that will deliver a more valuable career experience for the longer term?

Foster a great company culture and a sense of community.

Establishing a great company culture is not just about organizing the occasional outing or handing out awards. It’s about building an environment that reflects and supports the interests and personal priorities of your staff. This is so critical for the Millennials who are very much influenced by and engaged within their communities – their social networks, professional networks and the community at large.

Take the time to learn more about the interests of your employees and what they are involved with. Can you help them to achieve their personal goals and pursue their interests as part of the professional environment with initiatives such as community service events, athletic activities, or training sessions?

Help to establish career paths upfront.

In the first part of this post, we laid out some key attributes that tend to attract Millennials and one of these is related to an established career path. We have learned that this generation isn’t content to sit back and wait to see if they will be promoted once they have some initial experience under their belts. For this reason, it’s extremely important to be transparent about the various career options that exist within your organization and share specific stories about those in your organization who have taken these paths. And with some traditional and “reverse mentoring” programs you can easily introduce these employees to each other to facilitate discussions.

Your organization can and should utilize social media to share these success stories both within and outside of the company. The bottom line is that you should make it a point to tell the “career stories” that will make this real for your current and potential employees. Let them see what’s possible and you will empower them to envision themselves with your organization for the longer term.

Offer flexibility.

Flexibility in the workplace comes in many flavors; for some, it may mean flexible work schedules, remote work options or even part-time schedules. At the end of the day, flexibility only works if it meets the objectives of both the employee and the company. So consider your employees and the tasks that they are engaged with on a daily basis to determine what is feasible. From there, try to allow for some flexibility where it makes sense and at your manager's’ discretion.

While there are many other potential programs and incentives that we could discuss related to attracting and retaining Millennial talent, we have found these particular initiatives to be the most impactful. In our next post, we will address key strategies for recruiting Generation X – those in their 30’s and 40’s, the prime working years. What interests them most and how can you retain them?

Do you have questions or would you like to chat about these strategies? Please contact me directly at and visit us on Twitter and Facebook to join the conversation.