by Razor Suleman | April 21, 2011
Millennials present a unique opportunity and challenge for employers. They are entering the workforce, 75 million strong, as a highly educated generation with the unbounded drive necessary to be successful in the corporate world. They also bring unique workplace expectations, developed from growing up in a world of rapid change, abundant opportunities, and “always on” communication channels. 

They are undoubtedly a talent pool that employers want to tap into, but are unresponsive to traditional management and recruiting efforts. To better understand the Millennial Worker, I Love Rewards partnered with Experience Inc. to produce the “Class of 2011 Survey,” examining critical factors in job search and engagement initiatives. To recruit, retain, and inspire Gen Yers, employers will need to up the ante on communication efforts and better align their brand and work environment to Millennial values. 
Here are the essentials:

Go Where the Students Go
Millennials are a well-networked generation, and they rely on their personal and online social networks when it comes time to search for jobs. Over 70 percent of students intend to seek employment through on-campus career centers. Respondents using LinkedIn as a job search platform increased by 21 percent from the year prior. Gen Y is accustomed to receiving information from a wealth of outlets. Casting a wide net on multiple platforms ensures that you will reach them.

Build Brand Presence
A brand’s presence and reputation guide the Millennial job search. More than 87 percent of students from the Class of 2011 will submit their job applications directly to companies. Most organizations have a multi-channel approach to build product or service knowledge, but fail to extend this effort to bolster recruitment. Position your company as a top employer by delivering transparent communication about culture and people, both on your website and externally.  

Think Like a Marketer
The society that raised Millennials is filled with in-your-face advertising and product solicitation that governs consumer opinion. Gen Y will expect no less from recruiters, requiring stimulating job descriptions that penetrate the noise. To win top talent, recruiters need not only communicate clear job expectations, but differentiating workplace perks and an enviable corporate culture.

For the second year running, career advancement (55%), salary (52%), and interesting and challenging work (42%) were the top three decisive factors when considering where to work. Millennials seek tangible outcomes and gravitate toward companies and jobs that are aligned to that desire.  

Efforts Shouldn’t End With a Job Offer
Of the 8,000 respondents, 64 percent expect to stay in their first job for two to five years, and 24 percent anticipate staying over 10, but the average tenure of a Millennial worker is only 1.5 years. Addressing this disconnect with revamped engagement initiatives is critical to retention. 

Workplaces rarely provide the level of recognition that Gen Y has grown accustomed to due to frequent praise by parents, sports teams, and schools. Recognition is a staple in communication for young professionals, validating contributions and setting guidelines for success. The opportunity to engage and retain employees starts on day one with two-way feedback conversations that incorporate frequent recognition.

Millennials also respond well to rewards, but most employers fail to effectively leverage them. The survey results make clear that today’s employee wants choice—with travel, experience, and products all ranked as meaningful rewards—but 92 percent of North American companies continue to offer gimmicky years-of-service items that have no influence on everyday engagement. In this day and age, most workers don’t stay with an organization long enough to see these come to fruition. By offering better-aligned rewards that are based on performance rather than longevity, employers improve both odds of retention and productivity exponentially.

By 2014, 50 percent of the workforce will be made up by Millennials. Companies need to adopt forward-thinking initiatives now to maintain a competitive advantage. Today’s top Gen Y talent is tomorrow’s leader, and organizations that adapt their corporate brand, culture, communication, and engagement strategies will be successful in recruiting, retaining, and inspiring the Class of 2011 and beyond. 

Razor Suleman is the CEO and founder of I Love Rewards, a provider of Web-based employee reward and recognition, sales incentive, and service award solutions. I Love Rewards works with top employers across North America to recruit, retain, and inspire employees, and drive results most important to business success. For more information, visit www.iloverewards.com.