Volume 2, Issue 3 - Winter 2017

With Stephen Heckbert, public relations professor and executive advisor

As my business is growing, our organization is in transition, and many of our new recruits are under 30. Should I be worried about hiring millennials?

Many organizations have expressed concerns about the differences between millennials and others in their workforce — fears, from my experience, I believe are unfounded. The main difference for your organization is that millennials want to know, on day one, what impact their work is having on both the business and society as a whole. The ‘triple bottom line’ is now the equation that matters. So, you will need to improve communication to ensure your new staff understand how what they do is making a positive contribution — but that improvement in communication will be of benefit to your entire organization.

But I’ve heard millennials are more stressed out and, therefore, harder to manage?

The challenge for all young people in today’s world is that all they know is change; and, like many of us, sometimes we’d prefer the constant change to stop. Millennials, however, are more adaptable and more capable of moving within an organization than some other generations. You will find they need greater diversity and opportunity within their teams; but, again, having employees who want to see and do more within their teams should be seen as a positive, not a negative. Give them more to do, and a reason to do it, and then get out of their way and let them succeed.

Why have millennials received a bad rap before?

In every group of new potential hires, there are the greats who can work anywhere — those who will fit well within most organizations, and those who will only fit in certain roles. That was true of baby boomers, of Gen-Xers, and of every employee throughout history. The challenge for today’s young people is that they have had to deal with constant disruption their entire lives, and they have also had enormous expectations placed on them because they are seen — too often —as saviours for an organization’s culture. They are not. Leaders still need to lead, and young people still need guidance to enter the workforce properly.   

Should I automatically turn my social media accounts over to the youngest person in the building? Do we need to be on Snapchat or not?

There are absolutely more ways to reach people than ever before, and the decision about what channels to use, and when, is part of your overall operational decision with respect to building your brand and your audience. But should you chase every new social media channel? No. You know what audiences you need to reach and when — the fact that millennials may be more comfortable on these channels doesn’t mean these channels are right for you. Your business decisions should still be based on reaching your customers where they are rather than trying to chase ‘clicks’ and social media traffic.

How will I know who to hire? Do I need to evaluate millennials differently?

Much like hockey teams are built by focusing on the skills the coach needs to put the best product on the ice for any given game, you should always be building your team for the requirements you have. Do you need a programmer? Find the best programmer you can who fits your culture. Do you need a sales representative? Find the best salesperson you can who will connect with customers. Millennials offer the same qualities as previous demographic groups — the major difference is they believe technology has flattened organizations, and they will believe they can interact with the person they need to talk to directly rather than worrying about hierarchy. In other words: If you’ve said all along you have an open-door policy for staff, don’t be surprised if your new young hire believed you and sends you a note early in their tenure with suggestions for improvement. The second part of that is they may be right, but work with your team to ensure you are getting the best out of everyone, not just your new hires, and your organizational success will follow.