See if you’ve ever had a first day at a new job that went something like this:
- You spend a half hour or hour with someone in HR, signing papers. The person gives you a company manual and may go over a few essential rules.
- You meet up with your supervisor and walk around greeting coworkers.
- You’re shown to your work place and encouraged to “make yourself at home.”
- Your boss touches base with you later in the day or maybe at the end of your first week to ask you how things are going.
For many businesses – both big and small – this has been the traditional way of breaking in (which is itself an unfortunate use of words) a new employee. The days of acculturation by osmosis are over. If you try to “break in” new employees like this today, you’ll just end up breaking them and in the long run breaking your business.
There are two basic reasons for this, and I think they are interrelated:
- Company culture is playing a bigger role in company success, and
- Millennials are, on average, more sensitive to how businesses are run and the purpose behind a business.
Further, the time you have to move a new employee from newbie to company loyalist has grown extremely short. Millennials are the single biggest demographic in the workforce today and their share is growing and their job longevity is dependent on the amount of buy-in they have for the company, its philosophy, and its goals.
Millennials change jobs at a rate three times faster than other groups in the workforce. One in four Millennials changed jobs last year, reports Results.com in The Millennial Manual. Further, looking four years out, two out of three Millennials expect to be working at a different company.
Millennials don’t have company loyalty baked into their DNA.
Add all of this together and you can see that you have a very small window of opportunity to take fresh Millennial recruits and turn them into loyal, longtime employees.
The onboarding influence
According to Gallup, Millennials are the most socially conscious generation since the 60s. They are a purpose-driven group and this extends into their employment. This means that you can’t merely sign papers and hand out a company manual when you bring a new employee onto your team. You need to:
- Explain the purpose of your company,
- Describe how the work you do helps people and society in general, and
- Show your new employees how they will be an important part of this work.
Let me give you some hints that will help you communicate these three points better. First, remember that Millennials have never known a non-digital life experience. They have been living with the Internet and all its subsequent iterations since they were in diapers. This fact should influence your messaging.
The same messaging techniques that engage digital device users, will work well with Millennials:
- Storytelling (tell the story of the company),
- Short messages (SMS style)
- Lists, and
Further, even the “look and feel” of your onboarding is important. While you certainly need to maintain a strong personal touch, you can also develop online materials and communication systems, for example, in-house messaging, via Facebook for Business or a similar system.
I know a graphic artist who hired on with a major e-commerce company about a year ago, and almost all of his time has been spent working on a team charged with revamping the company’s onboarding program and materials. His employer recognizes how important it is to recruit and maintain top Millennial talent.
I sympathize with Millennials who say, rightly, that we stereotype them and they often get an undeserved bad rap. But when we’re taking management clues from demographics, we’re forced to bunch people together and make some sweeping generalizations. So, I apologize for some of the “lumping together” I’ve done here.
But I’m going to pull one more general statistic out before I close this and it’s that Millennials are looking for mentors and guidance in the work world. Far from a negative, I think this is a positive and gives us ideas on how to keep Millennials in our companies and get them prepared to climb up the ladder of authority and responsibility.
Frankly, we should have been better about intra-company mentorships a long time ago. If it’s going to take the Millennials for us to get serious about being more proactive helping people grow in their careers, I thank them.
The point I want to make is that even when you think you have a killer onboarding system in place, don’t let your management efforts end there. Continue developing your young talent. You’ll find that as they grow, so does your company.