Thursday, 20 July 2017

Decoding Talent acquisition - Attracting and Retaining the Millennials

Attracting and retaining the millennials ( also known as Generation Y) was the focus of the Shine HR conclave held in Bangalore at Hotel LeMeredian on June 23rd 2017 . This generation of employees born between 1982 and 2004, are expected to be 52% of the work force in India by 2019. It is therefore no surprise that employers are increasingly paying attention to aspects such as " what motivates the Gen Y employees?"  and "what are the ways in which  they can be better engaged". Earlier also, there have been occasions when this subject was included as a session in HR summits of one or two days duration. However, at that point of time the information shared by speakers were mostly speculative, or if you prefer predictive. The real time experience of handling issues related to Gen Y was limited and speakers largely depended on the internet for content support.

Today, in the year 2017 however, there are quite a few multinational companies operating in India who have faced issues dealing with Gen Y employees in many countries and have evolved global strategy or guidelines  for effectively attracting and retaining this generation of employees. In fact the tagline of the Shine HR summit read "From the Best in HR on the Next in HR" to call attention  to  the experise and competence of the discussion Panel for giving inputs on the subject.The distinguished panel included Ms Sanjuktha Sarkar, VP & Head HR Aditya Birla Fashion and retail Ltd, Mr Nagarajan.V, Sr VP, AXA Ltd, Mr R. RajNarayan, VP(HR), Titan, and Mr.K Raghavendra VP(HR) Infosys,BPO. The session was moderated by Dr M.S. Balaji a reputed executive coach with rich industrial experience.

At the outset, the moderator shared some interesting findings from a study made on the expectations of  the millennials from work. 90.33% of  this generation of employees were found to have  motivatiors different from that of other generations  for contributing effectively at work .64% of them indicated that they would leave their jobs after short stints; 28% felt that the real situation at work was worse than what they had expected. 75% of the millennials who participated in the study expected to advance in their career within a period of 18 months of joining.60% of the respondents said that they did not have a formal mentoring program in their company. In the discussions that followed, the panelists answered questions put to them by the moderator and the audience. The following are the important points that came out in the discussion.
  • Talent Acquisition- Branding important for millennials 
The visual brand/ No1 employer tag makes a big impression on young minds. Therefore it is important to ask the question " Are we doing different things and also doing enough to build the brand?" In order to reach  millennials, it would be necessary to utilize the media they are comfortable with such as Naukri,You tube,Twitter,Face book, Glassdoor (a website where employees and former employees anonymously review companies and their management) etc.

From merely sharing information about the organization in preplacement talks, companies are looking at giving projects to students providing them an opportunity to experience and get a sense of the environment. In one company 90% of the new recruits had done their projects with the organization.Some companies also declare contests for projects for engaging the students with business issues. ( you can read the practice in 3M in my blog ). These initiatives are not only essential part of branding but also contribute to better retention.

Apart from branding, another important factor that motivates youngsters to join is the interaction with the existing employees.Your existing employee is an important ambassador in this regard. His excitement or otherwise could make a deep impression on the mind of the prospective employee. The other factors include growth opportunities, work environment and sense of purpose in the organization. Availability of platforms for expressing oneself beyond immediate work aspect is important, all the more if the organization is not one of the best pay masters. The reputation of the company amongst one's peer group is also an important factor.  
  • High Attrition amongst millennials- Proactive efforts to retain them
Although we tend to club all millennials together, their background could be different and consequently the needs to be addessed could also be different.In this connection, they can be classified as follows:-
1) Those who have lived a major part of their lives in villages or small towns and have subsequently moved to cities (Conventional job security could be important to them atleast in the initial period)
2) Second generation city bred individuals (Their expectations could be a lot higher than conventional expectations of earlier generation of employees)
3) Those educated in technical and B schools abroad ( This group could see themselves as deserving no less than what their counterparts get anywhere in the world)

Based on an understanding of the above classification, companies could address particular needs of specific groups.However, when you look at the  millennials as a generation, it is seen that they are looking for more challenges than the earlier rgeneration of employees.They want a pleasant working environment and eco system.They are seeking experiences to enhance employability and not just promotions. Many large organizations today, are catering to this need of the GenY employees. However, a lot more can be done in the area of providing recognition, providing cluster of experiences and values matching in line with their natural style.
  • Career Progression and Development expectations of the millennials
The millennials have high achievement orientation.They have low tolerance level of hierarchy and are more self centered than the earlier generation of employees. To them progression is learning more and enhancing their employability; looking out for opportunities rather than linear progression. They would prefer 6-9 months of stints across various disciplines before deciding on what they would like to focus on long term.

In view of the above, it would be a good idea to move people seamlessly across marketing, production, warehousing and logistics. As the millennials have a low tolerance level of hierarchy, it is important to choose wisely the managers who would be guiding them. Competency and soft skills of the manager should be the criteria rather than total years of experience.In GE, they have experimented with ' Reverse Mentoring' wherein technologically challenged seniors of an older generation are taken under their wings and mentored by the youngsters.(you can read the best practices in GE in my blog )

It is essential for companies to study the possible career progression of the millennials in the next 2 to 4 years and examine the gaps that need to be filled through learning interventions. This neeed not essentially be classroom inputs but bite size learning, at their pace. A bouquet of learning experiences can be planned that may include webinars, shadowing the CEO etc.
  • Flexibility and Work life Balance
The millennials attach a lot of importance to flexibility and work life balance. This does ot mean that they wish to work less.In fact they would like to work more and engage in more challenging assignments. What it means however, is that apart from work, the Gen Y would like to pursue other interests of their own such as hiking, bird watching, social service, sports etc and also spend time with friends and family. Some wish to make a difference in society and engage in CSR activities. In this connection they expect support from the organization. It is like they prefer work life fusion when work and life collide. Fixing of core hours when everyone need to be in the office but flexibility most of the time could address this need.Technology can be leveraged effectively to provide this flexibility so that work also gets done as per schedule.
  • Significance of Trust and Values
There was a question from the audience drawing attention to the volatile work situation these days with managers changing frequently and increasing number of lay offs and pink slips.The question was as to how a trusting culture would be possible in such a scenario? The panelists acknowledged the need to be transparent and fair when lay offs become necessary. The seperation conversation on such occasions should be fair, humane and with lot of empathy. The exercise should be acceptable not only to the person seperating but also to those who are continuing in the organization.

Another matter that came up during the discussion was the using of technology effectively in managing the millennials.It was opined that analytics need to be leveraged better and HR needs to enhance it's competence in analytics analysis. The millennials tend to seek instant gratification but this is not with reference to money alone. They expect real time feedback on how they are doing and not once in a year during annual appraisal.

The Shine HR conclave was truly a rewarding experience with 360 degree perspectives on the subject justifying the tag line "From the Best in HR on the Next in HR".There was one question from the audience though that was perhaps misunderstood by the panelist. He had asked "Have we been unable to communicate our expectations and culture of the organization to the millennials ?"

Going by the general mood of the evening the panelist answered " You don't communicate culture; you experience it." Although this is a remarkable statement, I think what the questioner had in mind was, to put it in different words- "we are speaking and discussing so much about the necessity to adapt and adjust to the needs of a group who would be 52% of the work force in 2019. But should not the millennials also be taught to work in harmony with the remaining 48% of the work force?"

 Should they also not understand the reasons for the conventional thinking of the earlier generations, what values are important to them and what their expectations are as well? After all, in order for a house to be a home, not one but both the husband and wife/ father and son/ mother and daughter need to appreciate the perspectives and adapt to the needs of each other so that a transition to a better life happens in a  smooth and effortless manner ....


  1. I wonder how will the Gen Y feel when the attention will pass on to the later born! I wonder if there is already a label for post Y generation?

  2. As of now the label is there only upto the Y generation. Perhaps they will formulate the label for te youngsters at that time :)

  3. with each generation,the challenges differ and increase in degree. Gen Y has been by far the most challenging because of their sometimes almost unreal expectation within a traditional industry or as mentioned in your article when a large majority explicitly states that they would leave the job after a short stint, it is a concern for the HR

  4. Thank you so much for reading and sharing your thoughts on the subject Sujatha!