Did the war for talent ever end?  I’d argue no – there may have been a cease fire for a few years but it’s about to bubble up even more, and with a twist.  Today’s labor market is causing an interesting twist.  While it’s not quite the perfect storm, a storm is brewing and companies need to get ahead of the game if they are going to compete and thrive in tomorrow’s market.  People are still the major differentiation when it comes to how successful an organization can be.  Read on to find out why hiring and developing employees is changing and as important as ever.

We’ve all heard about the demographic shift in the workplace; yes, the baby boomers are finally getting to retire and the Millennial Generation will be the ones filling the gap in the labor force.  But until the entire generation gets to a working age the US is in a very tight labor market.

In order to compete companies must do two things:  First, companies must make sure that all hiring decisions are as good as possible.  Given that there are not as many applicants to fill positions the cost of a poor hiring decision is tremendous.  And as the labor market continues to tighten, it will become harder and harder to back-fill open positions.  On top of just a tight labor market, recruiting and hiring of the millennial generation must be different than it has been in the past.  Those companies that do not change will lose.  So, it’s not a matter of if your company will change, it’s a matter of when and how.

Hiring Millennials

So, what is involved in recruiting and hiring the millennial generation?  Here are just a few of many suggestions.

  1. Treat the candidate like a customer versus an “applicant.”  The Applicant Tracking Systems out there today benefit the organization and the recruiter, not the candidates.  Companies need to start catering to the needs of their candidates over the needs of the recruiters.  Simply making the recruiter’s job easier will not work.
  2. Interactivity and communication throughout the hiring process is key. To many processes leave the candidate in limbo.  When people send text messages to their friends they expect answers back right away.  To be left not knowing whether there is a match (in a very timely manner) will not be acceptable to candidates any more.
  3. Text is old and outdated – video is King. As with the mainstream Internet tomorrow’s candidates are used to seeing video for everything they do. The job application and hiring process will be no different.  Those companies that use video applications (see a sample here) and video assessments (see a sample here) will have the upper hand.
  4. Short steps in the process versus one long application is a must. The Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) process of registering, filling out a lengthy application and then taking an assessment, all before hearing whether there is a potential fit will no longer fly.
  5. Creating and communicating your employee value proposition early in the recruiting process goes a long way. Tomorrow’s applicants will care less about pay and more about a company that aligns with their own values. They will have choices and those companies that can show and prove they have a mission statement and values that align with the candidate’s will win the battle.

Second, companies need to develop their existing employees, at all levels in the organization.  Selecting the right people will only get you so far.  A company cannot afford to not develop their employees.  The obvious reason is that better employees lead to better operations and profits.  But the less obvious reason is that the new generation of employees expects it, and if those expectations are not met then the employee will leave.  And development needs to change as well.  It is not as simple as setting up courses and offering them to everyone.  Development needs to meet the needs of the individual and if you follow the 70/20/10 model of development then 70% needs to happen on the job.

Developing Millennials

So, what is involved in developing the millennial generation at all levels in the organization?  Here are just a few of many suggestions.

  1. Equip the manager with tools that make development an easy process.  Managers need a “cook book” to get this done.  It needs to be easy and prescriptive based on good data.
  2. Use assessments to drive development. A prescription without a diagnosis will get a doctor in big trouble.  Development is no different.  Make sure you know where the employee needs to develop.  Assessment and diagnostic data gives you that information.  But make sure the assessment is easy to administer, uses video, and gives good development information that makes it easy for manager and employee to understand and utilize.
  3. Text is old and outdated – video is King.  Yes, this is the same statement in the selection to do’s.  Even development can’t be text-based.  And if you’re using an assessment to get the information to drive development make sure you use video as well.
  4. Develop your managers as well. Use a 360 survey to make sure your managers are getting the development they need.  The managers’ buy-in for conducting development with their employees is a lot easier if the organization is also asking them to develop themselves.
  5. Make sure there is a top down message that shows how important development is to the organization. In addition to the message, make sure there is time allocated to development and reward those that participate.

So, if you assume the war for talent will continue these are all some simple things to implement that will impact whether you win or lose this war.  As I said the war will be fought differently.  The strategy has to change from what was done a few years ago to hire and develop employees.  To succeed in the next war where the applicant pool will be over 50% millennials you better start changing your strategies now.