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You don’t need to be Google to attract, engage millennials

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One of the biggest challenges facing businesses today is recruiting, training and retaining the right talent to remain competitive.

Read any business publication or attend any forum, and the diminishing pipeline of skilled talent is a hot-button issue.

More specifically, the perceived skills gap and lack of business acumen among the millennial generation are concerns among business leaders.

To meet this challenge, businesses are working to ensure they have access to the right talent to remain competitive. They’re partnering with academic institutions to build pools of technically proficient, entry-level candidates and then attempting to attract the best talent by establishing leading-edge “culture” programs that mimic the legends of Silicon Valley (Google, for example).

There are two problems with this approach.

First, technical skills alone are not enough to drive performance, particularly among millennials.

Technical skills matter, but they don’t necessarily prepare millennials to move into leadership positions that require a different set of capabilities for success. This ultimately can hurt an organization that lacks the management pipeline to form a sustainable competitive advantage.

Likewise, culture programs that offer fancy perks – free food, bonuses, one-off events – are expensive and shortsighted. They may initially attract employees, but as countless studies have proven, extrinsic rewards only move the dial so much.

It’s also worth noting that millennials tend to prioritize a sense of meaning and fulfillment above money.

CONSTANT COMMUNICATION

Technical proficiency and expensive perks are fine, but to effectively attract, engage and retain millennial talent over the long run, you need the missing ingredient: practical, repeatable and scalable communication processes that keep employees (and all stakeholders, really) aligned behind the company’s vision.

Consistent communication is the key to navigating change and meeting business objectives.

It allows managers to hold people accountable; it fosters innovation and productivity; it breaks down walls so employees can collaborate and share best practices; and it enables companies to onboard new employees quickly.

ENGAGEMENT TACTICS

The great news is that there are tried-and-true, practical techniques you can start using today to engage millennials and drive performance at your organization. Here are a few examples:

< Connect the dots.

Millennials want to know why the work they do matters and how their role contributes to the success of the organization.

Many employees (particularly those in technical positions) come to work every day and perform a series of fairly standard tasks, so it can be easy to forget why their work matters. Make sure employees know how their daily work connects to the bigger picture.

< Shoot straight.

Clear communication helps leaders build trust with employees. Trust is critical when dealing with millennials, who tend to have refined B.S. detectors.

Shoot straight: be honest, say what you mean, use real words (not jargon), be specific and don’t sugar coat messages.

< Provide continual feedback.

Millennials thrive on feedback. They want to know what they’re doing right and where they can improve, and they don’t want to wait until an annual performance review to have that conversation.

By providing feedback throughout the year, managers can reinforce the right behaviors, nip issues in the bud and establish an open relationship with employees.

< Model the right behaviors.

Whether they realize it or not, leaders are always setting an example. Everything they do or say sets the tone with their teams and will be emulated.

Model the behaviors you want to see from millennials and pay particular attention to how you respond to criticism, your work-life habits, punctuality, keeping commitments, etc.

NEXT LEVEL PERFORMANCE

Effective communication doesn’t have to (and shouldn’t) upend your existing work processes.

By incorporating these techniques into your daily routine, you can make sure employees are engaged and aligned behind the objectives and mission of your organization, while also helping them acquire the skills that will help take their performance to the next level – and create a sustainable advantage for your company.

Laura Osifchin is a managing partner of Lean Out Communications of Schnecksville, a management consulting firm that empowers organizations to engage key stakeholders with practical, repeatable and scalable solutions, tailored to their reality, so they can meet their objectives. She can be reached at laura@leanoutcommunications.com.

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