Head of HR at Time Inc. Takes Down Frustrating Millennial Myths

November 17, 2016

Millennials (born between 1982 and 2004) have been in the workforce for more than a decade. And yet,  recruiters are still struggling with how to reach this key demographic group. That’s understandable, as it’s tough to make a clear judgment call about such a wide group of people based on the conflicting accounts that media gives:

“They’re lazy.”

“They’re entitled.”

“They’re the most educated generation.”

“They’re extremely productive.”

These statements are enough to make any twenty or thirty-something roll their eyes. Millennials are more than a stereotype. As Gregory Giangrande, Executive VP and  HR officer at Time Inc. points out in a recent talk at LinkedIn Talent Connect 2016, millennials aren’t actually so special or unique. They are exactly like every other generation in history. To that end, some will be lazy, and some won’t. Some will be exceptional performers, and others will fall flat in their roles.

The key to targeting the right millennials, according to Giangrande, is to create an authentic company culture that’s tailored to your ideal hire. A company’s culture is the foundation of any recruiting strategy: it’s known that smart hires tend to attract fellow smart hires. In his talk, he walks through Time Inc.’s framework for attracting millennial talent. In his words—use Time Inc.’s tips to save “time, money and angst” in your recruiting process.

Here's his full talk at Talent Connect 2016:

1. Think of millennials as equal to any other generational cohort

In the ‘20s, young people were social. In the ‘50s, young people were social. And you can say the same for the ‘80s and ‘90s. The only difference now is that young people have a tool beyond word-of-mouth and the telephone to communicate. They have social media through which they have an immediate and powerful connection to their entire network.

“We’ve officially run out of letters in the alphabet to try to label young people,” says Giangrande. “What comes next? Generation AA? Are we on the battery generation? Folks, to believe in the millennial stereotype is to homogenize 83 million people with diversity across multiple dimensions.”

This perspective creates a culture in which millennials aren’t outsiders: their ideas are taken seriously and they are on equal footing with their peers when it comes to performance. This culture creates a client—and employer brand—in which millennials can coexist with their counterparts across age groups.

2. Emphasize your most human values as a company

Somehow, a myth emerged in the recruiting world that millennials are obsessed with perks. This perspective is far from the truth, according to Giangrande.

“They need what everyone else needs, and what everyone else wants. We all want, as human beings, a sense of place and purpose,” explains Giangrande.

At Time Inc., Giangrande and his team focus on teaching new employees—and millennials, especially—4 things:

  • The company mission
  • A sense of purpose and connection to that company mission
  • An understanding of how each individual function connects to the overall company
  • A sense of career ownership

“We make sure that every new hire understands that we’re not hiring bodies or pairs of hands,” says Giangrande. “We hire each person as a unique individual, through a thorough vetting process. We follow through on this message, making sure that every manager reinforces this idea during team meetings."

With this perspective, every employee has a connection back to Time Inc.’s company culture. This environment creates an employer brand that’s based on the team, authentically.

3. Find out what engages your ideal hire on a personal level

Data has shown that most workers—millennials, especially—are disengaged with their careers. But Giangrande and his team have found the opposite trend among young workers at Time Inc.

“That is false,” says Giangrande. “All they do is engage. 20-somethings like to engage. They engage with their food. I cannot go to a restaurant with my daughter without having to wait five minutes while she stages the dessert so that she can put it on Instagram. Even one of our top executives engages with Pokemon Go.”

The key to identifying and hiring engaged millennials is to be precise in your messaging and communication. You should write job descriptions, for instance, that tie back to your brand vision.

For tips on writing persona-specific job descriptions, check out the following resources:

3 Real-life Examples of Job Descriptions that Stand Out

5 Dos and Don’ts of Writing Outstanding Job Descriptions

So what’s been the big change?

If millennials aren’t so different or special, what’s the trend, then? According to Giangrande, it’s the world is changing—with technology comes a dramatically different hiring landscape.

“Those of you who remember getting the Sunday paper will remember looking at the classifieds section, cutting out jobs, writing a cover letter, sticking it in an envelope, etc.,” he says.

Today, recruiting is about technology and using social media to discover new opportunities. Not to mention, millennials love to explore. And why shouldn’t they? It’s easier than ever to find a job using technology.

“This is your time to try different things, learn different things, find your place,”says Giangrange. “This is what we do when they’re in school, this is the advice we give them early in their careers, and when they follow the advice, we somehow think it’s a big problem.”

It’s a given that millennials are challenging to retain, says Giangrande. That’s why it’s important to use technology to focus on the basics--building strong relationships with the candidates.

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