What we’ve learned about… Employing Millennials + Growing Talent

What we’ve learned about… Employing Millennials + Growing Talent

From this September, it will be possible to employ a 16 year old who was born this millennium. Now that’s a real millennial. The general web consensus seems to be that a millennial is someone who was still at primary school when 1999 turned to 2000 and have no real memory of the world before the internet. So, that pretty much covers everyone from their mid-20s down, every one of the 5 apprentices I’ve employed and the thousands of young people we’ve worked with over the last few years on traineeships, apprenticeships and other training courses.

A few things I’ve learnt about employing millennials:

Chronological age has nothing to do with when a young person is ready for the world of work.

School/college/university: the world of learning is known, safe and comfortable for many young people (however anxiety inducing exams are). Staying in learning is one way of avoiding the transition into adulthood. I have seen 23 year old graduates behave as badly as mardy 13 year olds and 17 year olds display more maturity and emotional intelligence than 47 year olds. Adulthood is a scary transition and one that some young people are ill equipped for and therefore resist.

So, I ask the employers who share horror stories of employing millennials who’ve displayed a huge sense of entitlement or bravado and defensiveness, “then why did you employ them?” Your recruitment process clearly isn’t rigorously testing for the qualities you want (and which many young people have) if those millennials who haven’t yet grown up are getting through.

During the recruitment phase:

  • Ask them what they expect working for you will be like.
  • Provide honest – and if necessary harsh – feedback and see how they react.
  • Get your receptionist to assess how they behave towards them.

Accepting and learning what to do with feedback is a skill that needs to be taught.

If they don’t learn it quickly, get rid of them. We have an education system that does its best to protect young people from failure, and so spoon-feeds them through every test going. We have brought many young people up believing they can be whatever they want to be and that all learning must be fun. This has done a huge injustice to many talented millennials.

In my experience, the vast majority want and are ready for:

  • Honest feedback that helps them to improve and stretches them.
    Criticism without encouragement and disinterested faint praise without astute and precise observations are not much use. The majority of millennials will want to get it right – help them do so.
  • Hard knocks that help develop their resilience.
    Millennials are tougher than we think. A work culture that encourages a ‘fail fast – learn – do better’ mentality is one I have seen millennials thrive in. It means that they’re not afraid to ask questions, to disturb people intelligently, to reflect on what they can do better and to have a go at doing so.
  • A sense of purpose and a feeling of responsibility.

Ok – don’t give them control of your biggest account from day 1. But, as quickly as possible, do trust them with a real piece of work where the quality of delivery of that work matters. The mature millennials are desperate for that. That’s why so many of the talented ones are seeking apprenticeships and other real world opportunities; they want to learn by doing and learn by experience.

Help millennials grow and they’ll grow your business.