If the headlines are anything to go by, it’s one of the great questions of our time: what do millennials want in the workplace?
Depending on who you’re listening to, the answer could be anything from televisions, happiness, nap pods, the chance to to save the world, or avocado toast on Fridays.
And yet, it’s not a question that you can dismiss. With millennials set to make up 75% of the global workforce by 2025, it’s important to understand what millennials actually want from their work so you can find and attract the best talent as it’s coming into the marketplace.
Dramatic headlines aside, research has started to filter through about what millennials want from their work.
While new surveys are coming out all the time, many are showing that when it comes down to the basics of employment, millennials want pretty much the same thing as former generations. By and large, they still want to have steady employment that pays them enough to live well, and they’d like to be engaged in their jobs, both mentally and emotionally.
All of this tracks fairly similarly with the data from previous generations, though there are a few differences.
While research indicates that most millennials don’t fit the stereotype of the whiney, self-absorbed idiot who can’t understand why they can’t communicate solely via emojis, they do tend to have some different expectations and habits when it comes to work.
Unlike generations before, they’re more likely to leave a job that they don’t feel they can develop in or become emotionally engaged with. It’s important to them that they understand their company’s vision and purpose, and can get behind it. They also highly value feeling like they make a difference in their work, and respond relatively poorly to very strict corporate cultures.
All of this is good news for small businesses.
Many of the things that tend to be misaligned with millennials’ work preferences tend to be things that small businesses don’t do anyway. For instance, it’s rare to find a small business that has the type of bureaucratic culture that many millennials struggle with, and the small staff of many SMEs makes it nearly impossible to feel as emotionally disconnected from work as many people do in larger settings.
Similarly, many small businesses are founded based on passion projects, disrupting industry norms, and benefiting the community, all of which are right up millennials’ alley. Not to mention the fast-paced, flexible nature of many small businesses is a perfect fit for a generation raised to respond quickly to a lot of data and change.
So what’s the best way to attract the best new talent?
If you were thinking that you were going to have to invest in some Google-style nap pods to get the younger talent interested, you can breathe easy. Instead of flashy gimmicks, you should focus instead on:
1. Making it clear what the company’s bigger picture is.
Millennials tend to be very purpose-driven, and once they get behind an idea, they’ll often go all in on making it happen. If you can get that drive behind your company’s overall purpose, you’ll have access to some serious energy. So make it clear to your potential hires what your company’s really about. Why does it matter? What impact does it make on the world? And by being a part of it, what can your potential hire do for the community around them?
2. Creating clear job descriptions that make the impact of the role clear.
Millennials want to know that their work matters — just like anyone else, they want to feel like they’re more than a cog in a giant machine. So when you’re setting out to attract new talent, make sure that your description of the role is clear and that a part of that clarity is how the role fits into the bigger picture of the company.
3. Being willing to bend on the details.
While SMEs tend to be more laid back than other businesses anyway, do highlight this in your conversations with potential hires. Nobody’s saying that you have to have flexible work hours or a casual dress code, but if that’s already a part of your company culture, it’s a great point of attraction. Similarly, if you have an unorthodox management style — for instance, a horizontal hierarchy — talk that up.
4. Going in with the expectation of developing talent.
Millennials want to know that they’re going to grow by being part of their work, so make it clear that you don’t expect them to perform exactly the same role forever. If you have some kind of in-house talent development track, that’s a great thing to talk about, especially if you can tie this professional development to their development as people.
5. Understanding that they approach work holistically.
People tend to naturally get to know each other when they’re working on a small staff, but if this hasn’t been a part of your company culture up until now, consider incorporating it. Millennials don’t draw the lines as strictly between work and life as former generations might have, so they don’t switch personalities or go into “work mode” when they get to the office — instead, they expect the workplace to be an extension of their life and vice versa. So the more you can demonstrate that the human element is important in the day-to-day operations of your work, the better.
Ultimately, attracting millennials isn’t all that complicated; and small businesses tend to be particularly well placed to capitalise on this powerhouse of energy and enthusiasm. So the next time you’re looking for some up and coming talent, forget about the gimmicks — and play up your natural advantages instead.
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