Are 20 somethings forcing a workplace revolution?

Screen shot 2013-02-03 at 4.45.36 PMIf you want to hire and keep the most talented 20 somethings, know who they are.

You can have the most remarkable product and the most clearly defined target market, but if you don’t have employees truly engaged in your corporate mission, you have a path to mediocrity and probably, failure. I have seen my clients struggle with HR issues when product and customer acquisition should be their top priorities.

A recent client had grand strategies for building a business that just couldn’t miss. Instead of working with alliance partners and product groups, he spent most of his time trying to resolve issues with his 20 something or Millennial Generation,┬áteam. He didn’t understand why management techniques that always worked before created more problems. He was baffled when employees had no regard for commonly accepted protocol (One individual contributor felt it was his right to update the Board of his demands, others openly criticized management and rejected the review process). Since then, I discovered the manager was at the front line of a battle he could not win with traditional means, a battle being fought by many hiring authorities and managers.

It is time to put down the hiring/retention revolution by acknowledging and acting on the need for it.

Why? Because hiring the best talent is a challenge. Keeping them, more so. Today, the company or manager who pays the closest attention to the needs, style and ethics of the 20 something, will hire and retain the best new talent available.

Talk about a revolution. Yesterday’s company template for attracting and managing talent is no longer effective. One reason Agile Development works so well is our 20 something professionals like small tasks with short deadlines, lots of feedback and cooperation. Get the Agile mentality into marketing and other parts of the company, and let the world know it. (Google Agile Marketing.)

Today’s talent is not inspired by long hours with the prospect of a big financial win/ liquidity event in a few years. They are inspired by getting paid a remarkable wage for minimal hours and work that is meaningful, measurable and completed quickly. They want to measure their own productivity and effort through metrics-based job descriptions and hate being judged and reviewed in the typical subjective review process. Above all, they want to be heard. They want a viable platform for airing their ideas and needs.

Giving away their family life, their balance of life, to a company that is not their own is not a high priority. I asked two educated, 23 year old professionals: “Which would you choose? 70 hour weeks at six figures and a huge $$ in 3 or four years, or 45 hour weeks at $85k with no big win at the end?” Both said there wasn’t enough money in the world to get them to work those kinds of hours. They do their research and only apply to companies who are not known for that sort of work ethic.

20 Somethings want to do important things both in the company and in the community, they want to know they are valued, need constant feedback and above all, want to be seen as a compete person, not just a coder or techie. Many tend to be focused on healthy living and eating; bike racks, a work out room, fruit and juice machines are more alluring than cookies and donuts and cots for napping off those long work hours.

Create an environment where a 45 hour week is common, time off for family, community service and vacations is a reasonable expectation, and you will attract and retain the best 20 somethings. Give them accolades, credit and recognition in a way that resonates with them (Which means more than just a bonus or starbucks card.) Give them a forum where they are heard, their ideas considered. Make time in the work week to update them on the value of their contributions. This I know to be true: There are many talented people working for strong companies who would leave in a heartbeat if they could get their lives back.

Today’s employees demand a different life style and share different values from traditional tech companies and traditional ┬ámanagers. The extent to which a company and manager gives them what they want, recognizes their individuality, that is the extent to which companies will attract and retain the best talent.

When you treat employees with empathy for who they are and their values, your HR issues are diminished, your recruiting efforts are simplified and your turnover is minimized. You also get a highly motivated employee who is willing to take ownership and invite friends to come on board.

20 somethings are famous for leaving if they don’t get what they want, now.


Check back for insights on what to do once you hire 20 somethings. Career development, recognition and peer interaction will be discussed.

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