After working for a company where “moving up was out of the question,” Caitlin Hansen sought a new job at Red Canoe Credit Union in Longview, Washington.
The credit union checked all her boxes: It provided an opportunity to grow and advance; it felt like a home outside of home; and it offered a meaningful job where she felt like she could help others.
“In my job, I get to help our members fight fraud on their accounts. I help them get their money back,” said Hansen, 30, who works in the union’s accounting department.
Hansen’s checklist is similar to those of her millennial peers (born between 1980 and 1996), according to a 2016 Gallup study. But it’s a significantly different checklist than those of older generations, and that presents a challenge for businesses looking to attract young, qualified employees, said Frank McShane, president of Square Peg Consulting.
“(Baby) boomers sort of looked at work like, ‘This is just the way things are. You have to be glad to have a job,’ ” McShane said. “Millennials are looking for more than just work. They are looking for something that’s meaningful to do. … Just doing what your dad did is not going to work anymore.”
To add to the challenge, millennial workers have the advantage over companies in today’s candidate-driven market, McShane said.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there was about one unemployed person for each job opening in the nation this summer. That’s nearly six times fewer available candidates per job than was available at the height of the recession.
In effect, there’s a high demand for new hires, so millennials can be picky about which jobs they take, McShane said.
“So how do we position ourselves to sell our business to these (millennial) applicants?” McShane said during a recent morning “business boot camp” sponsored by the Kelso-Longview Chamber of Commerce. The session focused on strategies for attracting and retaining millennial workers, and drew representatives from about a dozen local business.
“Us boomers are trying to recruit millennials, but things we’ve been doing 30 to 40 years in the business and the way we see hiring … is very different,” said Chamber President Bill Marcum.
Where baby boomers viewed their jobs as a means to earn a paycheck, millennials seek a greater purpose in their work, McShane said. Older generations wanted a boss, an annual review and job satisfaction; millennials want a coach, continued dialogue and professional development opportunities, he added, citing the 2016 Gallup study.
“(Millennials) might take a job, but they will already be looking around for another job if they feel like those things aren’t there,” McShane said.
That was true for Jo Feeney, 25, a branch support specialist with Red Canoe.
Before starting at the credit union in 2017, Feeney was working as a waitress and bartender, she said. But she felt like she was stuck.
“I knew I wanted something I could build a career out of,” Feeney said.
So, on the recommendation of a few friends and a radio advertisement, she decided to apply at Red Canoe. She knew she’d made the right choice when in the interview, company officials told her they focused on promoting from within.
“Knowing this wasn’t going to be a dead end job was important to me,” Feeney said.
Managers must make job descriptions and advancement pathways clear, McShane said. And they should make sure to have open communication with their millennial workers.
“The annual review is going away. The review now should be part of a series of ongoing conversations,” McShane said.
For Ray Pyle, owner of Catlin Properties Inc., millennials’ near constant desire for conversation and support seemed annoying at first. But “the annoyance turned to curiosity” when he realized his younger workers just wanted to know his goals for them.
“At first I thought they were challenging me, but they truly just wanted to know,” he said.
Millennials now make up about half of Pyle’s staff. Those young workers “aren’t the enemy,” but rather a source for new — and sometimes insightful — perspectives in business, Pyle said.
“The things we are being told how to do in business to attract millennials are directly related to what our business needs (to improve),” Pyle said.
Attracting millennials is also an essential part of keeping a business going, McShane said.
“It’s not something you can hope goes away. This is where we are headed,” he said.
According to the Pew Research Center, millennials are now the largest generation in the workforce. The center also reports that nearly 10,000 baby boomers reach retirement age each day, hinting at a growing market for even more millennial workers.
“The reality is that millennials are the available workforce now. It’s becoming a bigger and bigger part of the workforce every day,” McShane said. “If (businesses) want to be competitive and identify who the best potential people are … then we have to figure out how to reach this particular generation of folks.”