Welcoming the Next Generation (OPINION)

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Today, nearly half of the Millennial cohort is in the job force. Loosely defined as those born between 1982 and 2004, they continue to matriculate from colleges and universities around the country and their résumés are likely flooding your inbox.

Enough Millennials are working that society is getting a sense of the generation’s overarching personality based on work habits, social interactions and stated goals. Social scientists will spend years studying the nuanced quirks, motives and general affectations these new players possess, but their impact is already being felt. Industry is working hard to determine how to best leverage this new talent pool in a way that drives innovation, growth and profit.

At a recent dinner party the topic of Millennials in the workforce came up and what followed was a great conversation about their impact, expectations and perceived blind spots. The business leaders and friends driving this conversation were from very different backgrounds and their work is equally diverse.

Interestingly though, common threads emerged.


Energetic and Informed

This generation has had access to information that is unparalleled in the human experience. They have no trouble finding answers and are quick to integrate new information into their thought processes.

With all of the information at their fingertips, they still lack the lessons that experience helps teach. Encouraging newer members of the team to solve for the larger issue at hand can empower employees to think bigger and more creatively.

The company that is able to harness the energy and enthusiasm this generation possesses in a way that provides inspiration, context and direction regarding the work — without being too prescriptive — will succeed in recruiting and perhaps even retaining Millennial talent.


Career Pathing Is a Must

Millennials do not work for companies; they work for people. Unlike generations before them, they will gladly (and perhaps quickly) move to a new opportunity if it promises excitement, growth and new challenges.

Companies know the hiring and training process is expensive and to best leverage these dollars it makes financial sense to retain talent. To retain Millennials, companies have to help them understand their role and its overall importance to the organization along with how they can progress from one job to the next. This includes sharing clear job descriptions, strategic plans and goals, timely feedback and conducting yearly reviews.

Likely due to the influence of social media and prolific sharing of ideas and information, this generation can also feel more entitled than others to be heard and included. Some companies are leveraging this by instituting reverse mentoring.

The concept, while not new, gives newer employees the chance to actively and constructively engage with their more senior peers. When done well, lines of communication can open and walls can come down.


Skill Set Requirements

Crafting the perfect business email; nuanced communication strategies depending on the audience; how to navigate internal office politics — all of these skills require development over time. However, a fundamental understanding of the mechanics of professional communication is a core skill set for all people in business today regardless of title.

Because many junior positions require employees to communicate directly with customers via email and social media, it is important to get a good read on a candidate’s ability to write. Doing this can protect your brand from a costly, viral gaffe.

Given this potential exposure, it is becoming more routine to have candidates share a writing sample as part of their application. This can be done by either an in-office writing test or asking for samples of previous work.

Millennials represent the future of the workforce. Their passion, when properly channeled, has already helped companies reform, evolve and engage with customers like never before. Ensuring that company leadership is prepared to fully leverage this opportunity by proactively and strategically communicating with the next generation can lead to more dynamic and effective teams.

Carrie McKnight is the vice president of public relations for Cranford Johnson Robinson Woods. She can be reached at [email protected]