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Counselor Commentary: A Youth Movement

There was a moment during the recent ASI Power Summit in Canada when everyone in the room seemed to agree. The prevailing thought was this: The ad specialty industry needs to focus on hiring younger people. This is not, of course, some grand revelation and the notion didn’t spring up like an epiphany among the Illuminati. Instead, the idea came from an open discussion about how to improve the market.

Consider that by 2025 – just a decade from now – Millennials will make up 75% of the U.S. labor force. Appealing to the best of this energetic generation of workers is obviously key for companies targeting growth. Firms that think they can offer telecommuting as a powerful recruiting chip need to reshuffle their decks. Frankly, if you don’t support work-at-home staffers, Millennials will look at your company like they do a VHS tape. Your business needs a better approach.

It was interesting that during the same conference, Grouplend’s Kevin Sandhu suggested younger workers want to feel like they’re part of something that matters. Yes, a nice paycheck can be persuasive, but 20-somethings tend to latch onto movements – they want to believe they’re making a difference. They’re very much into self-improvement, but socially they like to be part of teams, as well.

With this in mind, here are a few thoughts on how your company can attract and retain younger talent. First, you need to embrace training and mentoring. This can be a hard one for many firms, especially those set up to simply get the job done. But research is pretty clear that Millennials will move on if they’re convinced their employer doesn’t care about their career progression. At the very least, you have to show Millennial job candidates that they can still learn as they work. Does your company have a mentorship program? Do managers spend time – even a few minutes a week – talking with staffers about what they want to get better at? If the answer is no, this is problem.

Related to progression, you can impress Millennials with a pattern of promoting from within. Hiring managers and senior staffers from outside your company can bring in new ideas, but can often dampen morale. If your employees work hard and produce effectively, why should they be passed over if advancement opportunities exist? If you can meet with a Millennial job candidate and give examples of how past hires have moved ahead in their careers, your firm will give off a great impression.  

Remember that notion about making a difference? Younger generations of workers gravitate toward volunteering, but they shouldn’t have to take vacation days to do it. Imagine if your firm paid employees while they went and volunteered for one week a year at a nonprofit. Yes, you’d be sacrificing time that could be used to sell or design, but you’d be proving you care about helping others. Frankly, this is a policy you should implement as soon as you can. It will boost culture, you will gain respect and younger job candidates will take notice.  

Finally, looks matter. If your office looks like a converted bomb shelter, Millennials won’t be lining up at your door. If you think your workspace needs a transformation, it probably does. If you need ideas, check out what some Counselor Best Places to Work companies have done by clicking here. Personally, I’d ditch the cubicles and put some cash into a fun lunch and entertainment room. Just don’t stock the shelves with VHS tapes.