A few weeks ago I was riding the train to work and ran into a friend. We talked for a few minutes and then sat down and began our respective activities. I took out my Kindle, read a few pages, and she took out her phone and started tapping away. When we got to our stop I told her I always wish the train ride was longer, it’s the only time I feel I have to read. She said she agreed, and said that’s when she applies for jobs.
My friend isn’t doing anything out of the ordinary. Millennials are applying for jobs on their phones, and they’re applying in record numbers. Other stats on millennials and hiring stand out. According to new research by the Corporate Executive Board, a research and advisory services company:
- Compared to other generations, millennials spend less than half as much time learning about potential employers when job searching, but apply to the same number of organizations.
- Millennials participate in the same number of interviews as candidates of other generations (just about four, on average), but they receive 12.5 percent more offers.
- Millennials are more attracted to employee value proposition attributes related to career opportunities and individual development than other generations.
- Millennials are more likely than other generations to use social media to learn about potential employers, but only 29 percent of them trust the information they receive.
I interviewed Donna Weiss, managing director at the Corporate Executive Board, to discuss these findings and find out the CLO’s role in recruiting this generation.
Let’s discuss general trends you found first. How are millennials’ job-seeking preferences and behaviors different from other generations’?
Weiss: Generally, we found that organizations have to compete more for millennials’ attention and interest than other generations.
Millennials spend less than half as much time learning about potential employers than other generations. And, although they get the same number of interviews as candidates in other generations, millennials receive more offers.
They are also more active on social media and mobile devices. Perhaps unsurprisingly, we found that millennials are more likely to use social media to learn about employers than other generations. What was surprising was that they aren’t very trusting of the information they get — only 29 percent of millennials trust what they learn about potential employers on social media. Also, almost 20 percent of them use a mobile device as their primary way to learn about employers.
One other interesting finding was that millennials are specifically looking for employers that can help them grow. They are much more likely than other generations to be attracted to employers that offer future career and development opportunities.
What’s the learning leader’s role here? Knowing this information, how does it change, if at all, learning and development in an organization?
Weiss: There are two key things that learning leaders can do to adopt their L&D strategies to millennials’ preferences.
We know that millennials are focused on career and development opportunities, but they lack confidence in identifying what they need to learn in order to grow. To help them, L&D leaders should identify and actively communicate compelling career paths. Doing so will help millennials prioritize and focus their growth opportunities around the roles they want to have next.
Second, as millennial employees are using social media and mobile devices more than other generations, L&D functions need to carefully consider how to evolve their learning tool kit to meet these technologies. Learning leaders should be wary of “channel switching,” or moving content and solutions from traditional channels to new, tech-enabled channels, just for the sake of it. They should continue to pay careful attention to learning objectives and evaluate how a given channel can support them. Learning leaders have an opportunity to use this population to help them understand how to best use new technologies to ensure that they are making an impact.
We keep hearing about how the millennial unemployment rate is still high, that millennials don’t graduate with the skills needed for open positions, so is it up to recruiters to cater to millennials? Some think millennials should just take what they can get.
Weiss: First, it’s important to note that millennials are in increasingly high demand. For organizations with high hiring needs, graduates and entry-level non-graduates together make up 35 percent of total external hires. Further, 66 percent of those organizations are planning to increase their university hiring in 2014, up from 49 percent in 2011.
That being said, it is true that most millennials don’t graduate with the skills they need. The odds of a graduate being employable— i.e., having both the execution and engagement skills for effective performance in today’s workplace — are just 1 in 15 globally.
However, many millennials will be successful if given proper development. In fact, CEB research shows that half of graduates have either execution or engagement skills that, if developed properly, would be valuable additions to organizations’ leadership pipelines. So, it’s not recruiting’s job to cater to millennials’ development needs, but it should be important to L&D leaders.
Let’s talk about what millennials want from work after they’ve been hired. From your research experience, does that differ from previous generations’ wants?
Weiss: Millennials have told us that they value career and development opportunities more than other generations. This flows in to what they are looking for in their work.
Feedback is very valuable to millennials. They are more likely to seek their managers’ feedback and find value in it than other generations. This is important for L&D teams, as it means it’s more critical than ever to develop managers’ coaching skills.
Millennials also appreciate on-the-job learning, mainly because they are more likely than other employees to find this type of learning effective in teaching them new skills and knowledge. We’ve also done extensive research on the role of collaboration in today’s work environment, and we’ve learned that millennials are fast adopters of learning through collaboration. In fact, they are more likely than other generations to find value in the learning they get from engaging with others.
Where we haven’t found a substantial difference between millennials and other generations is in the way they value formal and virtual learning. Both groups see the same level of value in learning new skills through formal channels such as classroom training and e-learning. So, L&D organizations shouldn’t change their entire approach to learning to cater to millennials, but they must continue to ask themselves, “How effective are the learning channels we are using? Have we optimized those channels to drive the right learning that will translate into performance?”
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