Today’s graduates are the future. According to the accountancy firm Deloitte, millennials will make up 75% of the global workforce by 2025. While it is always dangerous to generalise, several surveys suggest that today’s millennial generation graduates aren't motivated by the same factors as previous generations, such as a job for life. They set greater value on a good work life balance and a sense of purpose beyond financial success. They have never experienced a world without the internet and instant messaging, so their mode of communication is different and may be a difficult fit for some corporate cultures.
Given that graduates do represent the future, firms that get things right, and recruit the brightest and best, will have a clear competitive advantage.
Here are three top challenges and some ideas about how your organisation and millennial generation graduates can “meet halfway”.
1. Assess soft skills more thoroughly
The challenge: Graduates need to have the right technical capabilities in order to succeed, but people skills are also essential and are difficult to assess. A generation or two ago it was said that you learned more at university outside lecture theatres and science labs than inside – by interacting with your peers, mature students and staff. With the introduction of greater competition such as academic league tables that has changed. Some graduates acquire people skills with part-time work or summer jobs but many do not.
Even in technical roles, soft skills are important. Developers don’t just write code; they need to be innovate, able to meet deadlines, collaborate with colleagues, communicate with stakeholder and understand end users’ perspectives. These skills aren’t necessarily taught in computer science programs.
The solution: There are a number of things you can do to assess candidates’ people skills. We recommend:
- Developing an internship programme. On top of other advantages, this will give you an opportunity to view how candidates perform in your live work environment.
- Use structured interview techniques. Despite the “fuzzy” nature of soft skills, it is essential to eliminate subjective bias when assessing them. Ask open-ended questions that encourage conversation and exploration of concepts.
- Questions to assess soft skills should focus on areas such as communication, leadership, adaptability, collaboration, critical thinking. Remember: this is not just a matter of testing the candidate, but also a way to present your corporate culture in a positive light.
2. Review and adjust your corporate culture
The challenge: Millennials have grown up in a world where there is no such thing as a “job for life”. So it is hardly surprising if they have greater loyalty to their own values than traditional ideas of “work ethic”. If they are uncomfortable they will move on, and high attrition rates not
only bring costs but also reflect badly on the recruiter and the hiring organisation.
The solution: You probably need to adjust your corporate culture to be more “millennial friendly”. The Virgin Group carried out an interesting experiment, holding “a corporate day” when employees were asked to behave in a traditional manner: they had to wear formal business wear, arrive at 9 am on the dot, use the titles Mr and Mrs when addressing each other etc. They were not allowed to look at social media or make personal calls.
Sir Richard Branson reported that it was a horrible experience for everybody! But it gave Virgin employees a taste of how much of the world still runs.
We suggest tweaking your corporate culture to reduce the risk of graduate attrition:
- Invest in a structured on-boarding programme.
- Look for ways to make your working hours more flexible.
- Give millennials tasks that stretch them – but be ready to step in with support if they run into difficulties.
- Make your workplace friendlier – a place where younger employees want to hang out with colleagues after work.
- Encourage senior managers to mix with junior employees to eliminate any “them and us” culture.
3. Attracting the very best
The challenge: The very best graduates can afford to be more selective when it comes to their future employers, and often have multiple offers to choose from. This can be especially disheartening for hiring organisations that have put a lot of time into finding the perfect candidate, only to find they choose someone else. Moreover, high quality candidates the recruiter previously rejected may have found other employers in the meantime, leaving the recruiter to start the talent pool again.
The solution: Create a great candidate experience for graduates.
- Invest in creating a fantastic and meaningful graduate website or section for graduates on your corporate careers site.
- Offer candidates the opportunity to meet senior managers and successful recent graduate intakes during the process.
- Provide guided tours of your workplace.
- Treat graduates as a precious resource, for example give prompt and informative replies to queries at every stage of the recruitment cycle.
- Provide constructive feedback to all rejected candidates. An advice on how they could improve their chances next time will minimize any potential negative feelings they might have due to not progressing to a further stage of the process.