UK Business Leaders Share 6 Ideas for Attracting and Retaining Millennials

January 26, 2016

With millennials now the largest generation in the workforce, attracting and retaining them is no longer a nice to do – it’s something all companies have to do.

And while it would be a mistake to stereotype an entire generation, there are some adjustments all companies are going to have to make to get the most out of millennial talent.

To find out what those are, LinkedIn held an hour-long roundtable discussion with some of the UK’s top business minds to get their thoughts on recruiting and retaining millennials. From that conversation, six ideas emerged that any company can use in the pursuit of attracting and retaining millennial talent.

They are:

1. Start a reverse-mentoring program that takes advantage of millennials’ tech savvy

Andy Hill, executive vice president of talent and resourcing at the 13,000-plus employee tech firm Sage Group, found that often his millennial employees were better with technology than their older colleagues. To take advantage of that, he set up a reverse mentoring program at Sage Group, where millennial employees help older employees get more accustomed with newer technologies.

Not only does the service improve the technological skills of Sage employees overall, the program also helps morale by making millennials feel empowered and building intergenerational relationships within the organization. All that serves as a retention device that helps keep millennial employees around longer, Hill said.

2. Talk with employees about their career aspirations and help them reach their goals

Kathy Allison, head of HR at FitFlop, a 200-person retail company that sells footwear, helps recruit and retain top talent by talking with her employees about their career aspirations, even if they aren’t within FitFlop.

The goal of these conversations is to form a partnership with employees so they can fulfill their goals while also helping the company. Of course, FitFlop hopes to have employees build their career within their company, but Allison said she will help them get jobs elsewhere if there isn’t a clear path for them to pursue with FitFlop.

The reason for doing this is it keeps employees engaged, but also helps FitFlop’s employer brand, Allison said. Ultimately, that’s going to increase the demand of millennials wanting to work for the company.

3. Attract millennial talent with a strong company mission

Paul Drechsler, the president of the Confederation of British Industry, is also the chairman of the Teach First education charity. Part of his challenge at Teach First is finding recent college graduates who are willing to work in some of the UK’s toughest schools.

How does he do it? He sells purpose to millennials. Obviously, being a charity, salaries can be tight but he overcomes that by showing millennials the difference they can make working at Teach First.

“Millennials have a much stronger bias to make a positive different in society,” Drechsler said. “We have to resonate with the values young people have today.”

4. Utilize new channels to reach candidates, like Vine and Snapchat

Jörgen Sundberg is the founder of Undercover Recruiter and CEO of the social media and content agency Link Humans. He believes in using platforms millennials are already on to help recruit, like Snapchat and Facebook.

For example, he said he recently had people apply to a job at his company by attaching a six-second Vine video as part of their application. One applicant’s video was particularly engaging, and ultimately Sundberg hired her.

Not only do these techniques give you a better insight into the candidate, they also create a buzz and an excitement within younger communities, Sundberg said.

5. Ensure your consumer and employer brand are aligned

In the discussion, Joshua Graff, the country manager of the UK for LinkedIn, stressed the importance of having your company’s employer brand and consumer brand aligned. A company that markets itself one way to consumers and another way to talent is going to be seen as inauthentic, and potentially lose both millennial applicants and customers.

Graff’s point has some strong numbers to support it. Recently, LinkedIn studied companies that utilized one cohesive strategy for their consumer and employer brands, as opposed to ones who emphasized one or the other. The results were that companies who did both well across the board had 35 percent more sales than expected.

6. Most of all, empower all your employees to challenge the status quo

James Caan, CEO of the Hamilton Bradshaw Group, said perhaps the biggest key to recruiting and retaining millennials is to encourage them to challenge the status quo. Rather than having a culture of young employees doing what they are told – a “command-and-control model” – it is crucial to have all employees within your organization be able to suggest better ways to do things.

First off, this builds a much stronger culture that employees of all generations will love, including millennials, Caan said. But it’s also what’s best for the business.

For example, Caan said a few years ago, one of his employees had a better idea on how to do something within his company. Under the “command-and-control” model, the only way that person could get their idea through was to go somewhere else or start their own company and ultimately compete against the Hamilton Bradshaw Group.

But instead, that employee felt empowered to bring the idea to Caan. Seeing its worth, he immediately backed the idea and now that employee runs her own division. Bottom line, by having this type of meritocracy within your organization, not only will you attract talent of all generations, but your business will stay agile and ahead of competitors.

*Image from Death to the Stock Photo

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