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Employer of Choice or Necessity?

comfort zone

Employer of Choice or Necessity?

By John Grubbs

As we approach 2020 and more millennials (Gen Y) enter the workforce, organizations will require some honest and candid introspection.  What are you doing that makes you different?  In 2011, when the Talent Exodus book was published, the storm for generational change was on the radar, but it had not reached shore.  CEOs were sitting in adirondack chairs on the beach (with little umbrellas in their drinks) and the sun was beaming.  I felt like the guy running up and down the beach screaming there is a storm coming.  They in turn, looked up and the sunny sky and shook me off as nothing more than an alarmist or nuisance.  Today however, the outer bands of the storm are reaching shore and most are buzzing about generational change in the workplace.  Baby boomers are retiring by the thousands each day and millennials are entering the workplace to fill the void.  By the year 2020 almost half of every worker will be born between 1981 and 2000.

Just like the baby boomers before, the younger workforce will have a significant impact on the workplace.  First, not all millennials are the same and many consider themselves different from each other.  According to Kelly M. at Fitzmark Inc.:

[Too many ugly labels have been placed on our generation and some of them seem contradictory. Each one of us is different and our culture, values, backgrounds and beliefs play a huge part in who we are. Wouldn’t it be reasonable to say that everyone possesses some degree of each of those attributes?

Our generation is viewed in this regard because we have the ability to speak our minds, be creative, understand what we want out of life and live life to the fullest.” JT Slusser

Everyone is different. Companies just need to find individuals that will work to benefit the company.” Brian Berger

"Most people in our generation act for the greater good yet are not recognized for that because our generation isn’t known for being hard working or compassionate." Caroline Graham]

The buzz about millennials is creating a challenge and most companies are not prepared.  The average company will evolve organically while organizations on the “cutting edge” will utilize this time of change to create a competitive advantage.  Following are eight questions to ask about your own organization:

  • What makes you different from any other company in your area?
  • Can you offer me something no other company competing for my talent can offer?
  • What will you do to keep me once I am hired?
  • Will you be able to hire other great people or will I have to carry the load for underperformers?
  • Why should I work here if you will hire just anyone?
  • Why should I stay here if you will not get rid of those that do not perform?
  • If another company offers me a little more money, why should I stay here?
  • Do you place value on my life away from work?

Millennials have been taught to speak their minds, to be creative and want the best from life.  If the job takes away from the quality of life they live, they will not tolerate it very long.  Long hours with no end in sight simply will not attract the best.

Technology has been a part of their entire lives.  Attempts to limit access to technology without valid reasoning will not be attractive.  Additionally, organizations that look and feel old-fashioned are not going to retain employees with other options. 

Millennials also want to be praised and acknowledged for their work when they have earned it.  Organizations that do not train supervisors to give feedback (there is a technique and a skill to be learned here) cannot expect to keep the best. 

Finally, millennials do care about career development.  It just may not be with your company.  I recently gave a speech and while signing books a twenty-seven year old engineer informed me that he has worked for three different companies since graduating college four years earlier.  Curiously, I asked him if he thought it was odd to change jobs so often.  His response was remarkable, “Why should I stay with one company when presented with a better opportunity – why hurt or limit myself?”  Of course, the stigmas of loyalty and dependability by the standards of older generations are gone.  Millennials do not like the judgment as one group.  However, while the stereotypes do indeed exist, we must adapt our organizations to become attractive to those that have the most to offer.  Organizations that do not seek to improve will end up with the millennials that have no other options.  We call that the proverbial “Bottom of the Barrell”.