How to Attract Millennials as Workers and Customers

By 2025, millennials will make up 75% of the global workforce. This staggering statistic means that recruiting Millennial talent—and understanding Millennials’ buying habits as customers—are critical for business growth. As companies focus on this tech-savvy, mobile generation, they must look beyond the stereotypes to uncover what millennials truly value.

The disconnect between employers’ perceptions and millennials’ actual preferences is real: In a recent study, recruiters said work-life balance was Millennial job seekers’ most important priority. Meanwhile, millennials ranked compensation and benefits as their top priority, followed by opportunities for advancement, mentorship and work that provides a sense of purpose. Work-life balance actually ranked fifth. “Millennials work very differently from their predecessors, but they are not a problem that needs solving,” says Jeff McLendon, CEO of Atlanta-based US Lumber. “They’re the answer—and we need to learn how to treat them as such.”

Of course, every prospective employee is unique. Generally speaking, though, millennials prefer positions that offer learning experiences and opportunities to improve their specialized skill sets. And they’re often particularly interested in using up-to-date technology at work. In fact, in a global study of executives in the manufacturing, distribution and service industries, 29% reported losing top talent because those employees “wanted to work for a company with better technology.

Millennial buyers also appreciate vendors that leverage technology for their customers and have a strong presence on social platforms. “Millennials are highly sophisticated when it comes to using technology to communicate,” says Ron Calhoun, CEO of Palmer Donavin, an Ohio-based wholesale distributor of residential building materials. “They want to confirm sales through text and use online chat features for quick answers, and they expect to access everything on multiple devices.”

This preference doesn’t mean millennials only want to work in the tech industry, though. Members of this generation are particularly drawn to jobs in finance, healthcare, architecture and engineering.

To attract and retain millennials consider the following areas:

Craft vibrant, compelling messaging

Millennials size up companies with scrutiny, which means employers must have a stronger, more relevant brand than ever. Recruits want to know what they can expect in terms of job advancement and how you will help them develop skills and build their careers, while Millennial buyers are interested to learn how you treat your customers and make a difference in the industry. Use multiple avenues to deliver these messages: websites, emails, entertaining videos, strong social media presence, and most importantly, first-hand reports from current employees and customers.

Generally speaking, though, millennials prefer positions that offer learning experiences and opportunities to improve their specialized skill sets

“Millennials need to feel that you are authentic and that your message resonates with them,” Calhoun says. “There’s no way around this: As an owner you have to be open about your mission and have a team of people who believe in the company.”

Millennials greatly value peer opinions, so the most effective messaging comes directly from people who are satisfied with your company and are willing to share their stories. That’s why Palmer Donavin maintains a careers webpage that highlights employee testimonials and benefits. The firm also recruits heavily at colleges, building brand presence through on-campus speaking engagements.

Streamline processes with automation

Technology is woven into every aspect of millennials’ lives. As employees, they’re likely to be turned off by traditional, task-driven work, such as heavy outbound calling or repetitive paperwork. Consider adopting tech strategies that streamline these processes. For instance, you can automate tasks like credit approvals, ongoing risk monitoring, cash applications and collections. Doing so will give staffers more time for in-depth, strategic work such as investigating fraud and collaborating with sales on new growth strategies.

As customers, millennials expect the convenience and speed that automation will provide, such as instant credit approvals, adjustments to their credit line and real-time updates on product availability. Palmer Donavin is currently testing a program that will allow customers to use voice activation to access a portal where they can check inventory. “It’s in the beginning stages, but it could really make a difference in how customers interact with our company,” Calhoun says.

Provide meaningful transparency and collaboration

Millennials want open discussion and transparency as both employees and customers. In the workplace, they value collaboration with multiple departments and crave opportunities to problem solve. “We’ve learned that giving millennials multiple tasks at one time is actually stimulating and drives production because that’s what they’re used to in their personal lives,” says McLendon. “They want to challenge themselves, cross departmental boundaries and have relationships with people in all levels of the company, including senior management.”

As you assess your business systems, consider implementing online dashboards that give team members visibility into shared areas of the operations. For instance, a dashboard can let sales and marketing teams see the progress of credit approvals, purchasing and payment activity, allowing them to work together to serve customers more efficiently. As Millennial customers, they expect to have their own dashboards for control and convenience, in order to access to their account information, and purchasing and bill pay options.

Millennials are moving into the workforce quickly, both as your employees and as paying customers. So it’s imperative that your company adopts new technologies to attract these dexterous minds. If you don’t have the resources to build new systems, partner with a third party to provide easy-to-integrate automated tools that increase productivity and attract the millennials who are critical to your business’ success.


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