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How to Recruit Millennial Employees

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vladans / Getty Images
  • Generation Y (aka millennials), born between 1981 and 1996, currently make up roughly one-third of the U.S. labor force.
  • To recruit and retain millennial employees, highlight benefits like competitive salary, health insurance, professional development, job flexibility, remote work and company culture.
  • Motivate younger employees by creating a clear company vision and emphasizing job flexibility and collaboration. 

Generation Y, otherwise known as millennials (born 1981-96), have become the largest group of professionals in the U.S. labor force, making up roughly one-third of employees. Millennials view their careers as more than just a paycheck and demand different benefits than their predecessors (baby boomers and Gen Xers) prioritize. As such, companies must update their recruitment process to reflect the needs of the millennial employees they want to hire. 

In 2020, the unemployment rate has reached 3.6%, remaining near its lowest level since May 1969. Although this is a win for the economy, it poses yet another set of challenges for companies to attract and retain top talent. To cater to the millennial workforce, there are several outdated recruiting tactics that you should avoid, a few fads to phase out, and some new strategies to implement. 

Recruiting millennials can be tricky, and many businesses struggle to find successful hiring strategies. We spoke with industry experts to highlight five of the biggest millennial recruitment mistakes that businesses are still making today – and what you can do instead. 

Research has shown time after time that salary is not the most important factor in a job for millennials. When asked, millennials said they were likely to choose good benefits over pay raises. When interviewing millennial candidates, you should highlight monetary benefits such as health insurance and retirement funds, as well as non-monetary benefits such as vacation policies and job flexibility. 

"Health benefits and competitive pay are obvious when it comes to offering millennials a job, but flexible schedules and remote work options are also extremely important," Gayle Wiley, chief people officer at Lifesize, told Business News Daily. "In a recent study, 77% of respondents claimed they make flexible work a major consideration when evaluating job opportunities. When companies provide flexible and remote work, employees feel empowered to tailor their work environment and schedule to their current needs." 

Millennials want to know that they have room to grow when choosing an employer. If this group of workers knows upfront how long it might take them to advance, they're more likely to stick around and work toward those career goals. 

"Younger job candidates want to know that they'll be able to grow within a company," said Brandi Britton, district president for Robert Half. "During the interview process, highlight your company's leadership training programs and opportunities for upskilling, which can help motivate these professionals toward accepting an employment offer with your firm." 

Today's employers are catching on to the huge role that company culture plays in attracting millennials, but some still fail to understand that this generation cares a lot about its work environment and the people in it. You should display your workplace culture and values to help Gen Y employees form an opinion about your employer brand. You should also create a workspace that influences and inspires workers, said Matt Thomas, president of WorkSmart Systems

"A well-designed office should encourage collaboration yet still ensure employees can work peacefully," he said. "By establishing designated areas, such as a place that employees can congregate to eat their lunch or an area to break employees out of their afternoon slump, it can help increase employee engagement and company culture." [Read related article: How to Create a Workspace That Improves Productivity] 

Many employers make the mistake of assuming they know what their employees want. Are you offering happy hours for free beer when your employees would prefer onsite day care? To better cater to your team, it is a good idea to consult them on what is actually important to them and what they can do without.  

"Millennials are as diverse a generation as any other, and companies need to be mindful of that," said Britton. "Stereotypical 'fun' offerings like ping-pong tables and free food don't always cut it. Instead, take the time to find out what individual candidates want from an employer by asking them directly." 

If recruiters think Generation Y workers will respond to the same old hiring tactics of years past, they may want to think again. Millennials were the first generation to grow up alongside the internet, and they expect their workplace to incorporate modern technology and social networks. Reach your audience where they are, whether that means recruiting on job sites like LinkedIn and Indeed or using unconventional social media methods

Although recruiting and retaining millennial talent might seem difficult, there are a few strategies your company can focus on that will likely appeal to your target audience. For example, millennials are laden with more student loan debt than ever before, and many of them appreciate benefits that assist with loan repayment. Companies can offer benefits to ease the burden of debt, like competitive salaries and student loan payoff assistance. 

Britton said companies that are successful in millennial recruitment offer not only competitive compensation packages, but also clear opportunities for career growth. 

"While salary is often the key deciding factor for job seekers, millennials are also interested in opportunities for career growth," she said. "Offering professional development and training programs to employees, and playing them up during the recruiting process, is a winning strategy."  

Gen Y job seekers also expect employers to promote positive work-life-balance and offer things like remote work opportunities and flexible work schedules. 

"With remote work becoming more the rule than the exception, companies will need to be more amenable to changing their flex and remote work policies for potential candidates," said Wiley. "In tandem, they should also ensure they have the right collaboration tools in place to keep any remote workers (millennials or otherwise) connected to their in-office colleagues and actively engaged in the company culture."   

Millennials often feel motivated in companies that express a clear company vision and mission that they can internally relate to. They want to understand how their role integrates with the business, and how the business impacts the greater good of society. They are also motivated by clear career growth opportunities that reflect the positive impact they have on the company. 

Since Generation Y professionals value their autonomy, they are motivated by companies that embrace that. For example, Wiley said that many millennials expect companies to offer flexibility in terms of hours, location and team dynamic. 

"Ensuring employees remain empowered to make working decisions that are right for their individual needs and priorities – within the company's flexible work guidelines, of course – will motivate and inspire candidates and will ultimately lead to a more productive workforce," she said. 

Millennials also value relationships and teamwork. The grew up in the "participation-trophy era" that places higher value on collaboration than competition. Employers can keep millennial employees engaged by implementing internal peer mentorship programs and assigning team-oriented initiatives (e.g., cross-departmental projects and task forces). 

"There are common misconceptions that millennials are like needy toddlers that want gold stars on a chart, ice cream breaks and endless time off," said Thomas. "In fact, most millennials want opportunities for professional development and continued learning, good work-life balance, and a clear path to career advancement." 

Nicole Fallon contributed to the writing in this article.

Skye Schooley

Skye Schooley is an Arizona native, based in New York City. She received a business communication degree from Arizona State University and spent a few years traveling internationally, before finally settling down in the greater New York City area. She currently writes for business.com and Business News Daily, primarily contributing articles about business technology and the workplace, and reviewing categories such as remote PC access software, collection agencies, background check services, web hosting, reputation management services, cloud storage, and website design software and services.