With the Promise of the Future of Work, Four CEO’S Share How They Engage their Youth Workforce

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According to a recent survey done by the World Economic Forum, nearly a third of millennials plan to leave their company within a year. What can employers do about it? What is the future of the 21st century Millennial Workforce?

In another 2015 survey, more than 65% millennial respondents rated the opportunity to make a difference in society as the top attribute when asked the top three things they look for in a job; the other two major attributes followed includes opportunity to learn and career advancement. In the same survey, over 48% millennial respondents rated career advancement as number one of the top three attributes they look for in an employer; company culture came in second followed by training/development. Similarly, One of the largest data collected on millennials found in this Harvard Review, reported similar results; when millennials were asked about work-related fears, reports found that the top three rated -were getting stuck with no development opportunities, not being able to realize their career goals, and not finding a job that matches their personality.

The world’s population is young with 3 billion young people around the planet, the future of the workforce in the 21st century is certainly in the hands of the youths; they are for the first time in history the largest population alive today. Hiring this young workforce is unavoidable and most importantly paying attention to the new face of work is crucial for shaping up the future of the workforce and ultimately the global economy.

According to Harvard Business Review, as more Millennials assume leadership positions around the world, organizations are becoming increasingly concerned with how to ensure their success. Conclusions based on limited data research or purely assumption could lead to bad decisions or high problems with attracting, engaging and sustaining millennials in the global business environment/ workforce. There are many aspects that make this generation unique and different, one of which being that this generation is the most technologically advanced of all-time which means rules are changing and dynamics or status quo of doing things has tilted which PEW research outlines.

In light of that, what do millennials actually want at work? How can key players in the global business economy successfully attract, engage and sustain millennial leaders in today’s workforce or those looking for jobs? To attract is to lure the right talent, to engage is to be creative in other to keep productivity levels at an all-time high and to sustain is to beyond pushing to retain the talent but to develop into leadership, to respect an adequate talent regulation in the system- talents should not be retained in the same position they started but should be developed into leaders and keep a flowing cycle.

To understand more about this, I interviewed four CEOs of major global companies in the top echelon of millennial engagement in the workforce to share their distinct suggestions on the AES Principle i.e. the Attract, Engage, and Sustain approach:

1. Maintain a Social Innovation Program– Maggie Miller, founder of Digital Union

Maggie’s social impact consulting firm works with companies of all sizes to help implement and maintain social innovation programs. She says 3 out of 4 Millennials want to work for a company that supports a social cause. Maggie defines Social Impact as a positive social and economic change to the fabric of a system.  Millennials are truly understanding of the intersection between profit and purpose she says, and at that intersection, it is more about a simple practical benefit or a product benefit. There is meaning and there is mindfulness at that intersection. They are mindful of the work they do in the world and how that work is going to add value not just in their smaller system but globally. She suggests companies think about social impact as their business strategy and not a silo to the side; once CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) was born it sort of had its own corner cubicle- like it was separated from the company, she said. Companies need to see it as part of the integrated business strategy and not only inside their teams but how they relate, react and communicate with consumers. There is an electric current between profit and purpose which drives one another and can build a brand in a way that attracts millennials.

2. Foster an environment that encourages autonomy – Dan Graham, co-founder, and CEO of BuildASign.com 

As the CEO of a $90MM business, and with the majority of his workforce being millennials, this CEO was happy to bring light to how he has successfully kept his millennial workforce engaged and highly productive. Empowering millennials with the autonomy and direct engagement they desire in their roles is the key that inevitably creates a strong set of leaders in the company, Dan said. We divided our company into small groups and divisions that have clear strategic goals allowing them to self-organize and self-determine their own execution strategy to get those goals accomplished. By using this model, the results we have achieved grants our millennial employees to pave their own path and create their own strategy. It may be a subtle difference but that autonomy to self-create is really enlightening for the millennial generation.

3. Hire for Passion over Experience– Paris Wallace, co-founder and CEO of Ovuline

The staff at Ovuline, a women’s health tech company, is comprised almost entirely of millennials. The CEO Paris Wallace emphasized that more companies should hire for passion over experience especially when dealing with a young workforce.

Paris declared his company as truly believing in the power of learning and the ability for really smart people who have grown up in technology and fundamentally understand it- to be able to use that intelligence and further use their understanding of technology to solve big problems. He says with his company’s mission which is ‘trying to make healthcare a lifestyle’; passion is when those you hire were already using your app since it first came out and your company is already part of their lifestyle. He says this is true for the staff he’s hired at Ovuline which has been a successful strategy in hiring millennial generation regardless of their background but really hiring for their capacity he said. Mentioning, “I always tell people you can gain experience but you can’t gain intelligence”. His company’s success has been based on hiring for smarts rather than experience, and one thing he said speaks to this is that not until very recently did his company hire anyone that has ever worked on a mobile app before; so the entire company was made up of folks who had never made a mobile app before and yet they have some of the most successful mobile apps ever created which was built by totally inexperienced people.

4. Build a Transparent Company Culture-Patrycja Szostakowska, head of HR at Brainly

Brainly is the world’s largest SOCIAL LEARNING NETWORK for students to help each other get unstuck with their homework problems, founded by two Polish millennials- this organization is run by millennials, engages more with elusive teenage market as their target consumers and hires majorly millennials in their workforce with their headquarters split between Poland and New York City. Transparency, company values, and culture are on the top lists of priority for this organization. “We are a company that is built on cultural positive values and we try to build the company around values of our community on the target side, so we are very transparent and as we build a culture- we are reaching people that have similar values”. Patrycja recommends that companies should align their values with the workforce; she said for them their values connect with helping other people through the world of knowledge base especially because that is their field. Those are the values that are very connected to us- the openness for knowledge and curiosity- to always seek for knowledge, seek for answers and question everything. These really are the very characteristics of the Y Generation. They are continuously searching for the right answers. This workforce requires a lot of attention, she said. They wish to be very informed as a group because they need information to do their work properly so they aspire for more growth. They crave for this kind of transparency in talking to them, giving them a lot of freedom to influence the environment they are working with; generally, these are all the characteristics of a good leadership which a company should insert in its culture. I would say that is how we sustain our workforce at Brainly and we have managed to build this kind of culture and our people are very open to the values.


In conclusion, as young people are the majority in the workforce, do you think companies should pay more attention to strategizing sustainability plans to ensure their success and why? Feel free to leave your comments below. 

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