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What to Know About Hiring Millennials

Posted by Lynne C. Lancaster and David Stillman on Monday, December 13th, 2010

This spring’s class of college graduates is part of a whole new generation – the Millennials.The mistake would be to assume they are like the generations that have gone before them.

In our new book The M-Factor we help leaders understand how best to recruit, retain, manage, and motivate this next great generation.  We believe that the events and conditions that happen during the formative years of a generation shape who they will become as employees. Here are three of our favorite facts that we think employers should know:

79 percent of college freshman were accepted by their No. 1 college.

Many Millennials are used to getting what they want. College freshmen born around 1991 grew up in a time when things were plentiful, and most aren’t willing to settle for less than the best. Even in a down economy, we find that Millennials are still being choosy about which entry-level job is right for them. And if they can’t find it, rather than settle for less, many are opting for alternatives like travel or grad school.

Smart employers are realizing that, while the economy may be buying them time, Millennials are not going to fundamentally change in the long run. If you want to attract and keep the best and the brightest, you still need to show Millennials why you should be their number one choice.

48 percent of college freshman graduated from high school with an A- or better grade point average.

Millennials are a generation of over-achievers. Whether in the classroom or on the playing field, they like to succeed. We often hear from managers of Millennials that the first time they gave their new hire a bit of criticism, the tears started rolling. For many Millennials, their initial review at work is the first time they have been told that they aren’t perfect. But before you call them babies, let’s remember how they’ve been raised. In an age of grade inflation and parents who raised them during the self-esteem movement, Millennials aren’t used to hearing that they aren’t “all that.”

Of course employers will need to coach them and even criticize at times. However, we suggest that you use self-evaluations first, so that Millennials have a chance to think about how they have been doing. This also will give managers a heads up about where their opinions don’t match their employees’. Of course, for a generation who thrives on success, don’t forget to tell Millennials when they are doing A work.

53 percent have borrowed to attend college.

It’s not a surprise to most people that Millennials are destined to be the generation in the deepest debt as they enter the workplace. Before Millennials have bought a house or had kids, many are already facing huge debt. The culture of borrowing in which the Millennials were raised has definitely shaped their personal and professional lives. Most Millennials are not afraid of living beyond their means, and many do not even have hope that they will ever be completely debt free. Millennials didn’t let debt stop them from choosing the right college.

Therefore, when they enter the workplace, they will also put other factors before money. Many are willing to pay be paid less if it means having the right job. Remember to focus on benefits other than salary, such as meaningful work and opportunities to give back.

Lynne C. Lancaster and David Stillman are nationally recognized public speakers, generational experts, and coauthors of THE M-FACTOR: The Definitive Guide to the Millennial Generation in the Workplace. They are the founders and principals of BridgeWorks (www.generations.com), a consulting firm that specializes in educating organizations about the four distinct generations at work and identifying ways to bridge the gaps.


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