Leading Millennials: Meaningful Experiences

The oldest of the Millennials is 30 now, and are beginning to enter middle management and/or professional positions. As the Millennials grow in prominence and influence in the workforce, leading them will require new and adapted strategies to harness their influence and talents.

Millennials want to join a crusade, not a company. They view organizational structure as a tapestry, not a hierarchy. Traditionally, employees asked “What role do I fulfill as I work in this company?” Millennials ask, “What role will the company play in my life story?” If the organization is willing to invest into their life story, then dedication to that company will follow. Dedication and engagement is earned, not a given.

Millennials may forego a higher salary to participate in an organization or endeavour that will be meaningful to them. After all, their social network will bail them out even if they do need help. They won’t stay a at a job for monetary reasons only. Values, history and mission are important to the Millennials. They are more than just words on a page. If they are truly lived, and are congruent with the person, it will make a difference.

Bottom line: Organizations that do not provide meaningful experiences to their Millennial employees will lose them. Organizations that provide those at their organization, or who support their employees to find them elsewhere (ie. volunteer opportunities), will be able to retain Millennials.

Over the next while I will be posting excerpts of a presentation on Millennials by David Burkus and myself at the April 2011 Human Resources Institute of Alberta (HRIA) Conference in Edmonton, Alberta.

Burkus, D. (2010). Developing the next generation of leaders: How to engage Millennials in the workplace. Leadership Advance Online, 14. Download here.


Recruiters use Social Networking sites, but Should They?

Social networking’s vast usage has encouraged organizations to explore strategies to harness or use its power. 75% of major U.S. companies have a policy in place requiring their recruiters to check online reputational data. The most common online research involved search engines (78% of recruiters), social networking sites (63%) and photo and video sharing sites (59%). 70% of U.S. recruiters have rejected a candidate based on data found online, while only 7% of U.S. consumers believe online data has affected their job search (Cross-Tab, 2010).

The question I have is: Should we be using social networking sites in our recruitment efforts. If so, then are there any ethical parameters for recruiters in using them?

Laura Nash proposes four basic values (honesty, reliability, fairness and pragmatism) that drive our society’s definitions of business integrity. Nash calls these the ‘hallmarks of business integrity.’ They give us a framework to understand whether recruiters “should” use social networking sites in their recruitment efforts.

Is the Recruitment Honest?
Social networking offers opportunities for recruiters to solicit honest depictions of candidates. No one is perfect, but can the recruiter handle the imperfections? As well, if a candidate asked the recruiter if he checked out her social networking sites, would he answer truthfully or hide the truth? Are organizations upfront with candidates about their practices? Covert searching may actually turnoff great candidates in the process, especially if the candidates feel the recruiters were being dishonest about their techniques.

Is the Recruitment Reliable?
Are the sites visited, and the information obtained from those sites, reliable? The source of the information must be considered. If a candidate’s third-cousin twice removed posts a derogatory comment on his Facebook page, should that reflect badly on him, or is it just irrelevant babble? Another major consideration is whether the information obtained is about the right person? There are more than 2.37Million people in the U.S. with the surname Smith. How will recruiters determine the reliability of the information they find?

Is the Recruitment Fair?
How will recruiters determine what is valid and not valid about a person? People use social networking for various reasons, but those reasons are not consistent. Some access Facebook everyday; some once a month. Are all candidates being treated fairly? Is one candidate held to a different standard because his security settings allow more public access than other candidates? Is the person who accesses Facebook each day and has 1000 friends more social than the person who accesses it once per week and has 50 friends? Would a different recruiter come to a different conclusion about a candidate, simply because of each recruiter’s perspective on social networking?

Is the Recruitment Pragmatic?
Does the time spent researching these sites actually contribute something useful to the recruitment effort, or does it muddy the background search with a plethora of useless information? Sometimes we jump into using the next form of media, without asking ourselves why we are doing so. A recruiter who focuses too much on the means, may miss out on the whole point of the background search: the person. Social networking is most powerful when it accents and strengthens our in-person relationships; not when it replaces them. Would a recruiter’s time be better spent actually getting to know the candidate in person, as opposed to via social networking?

We all want to connect with others and feel valued. Whether that’s over a cup of coffee at Starbucks, or through a game of Farmville, we all crave some form of community. Recruiters need to understand that desire, and use severe discretion in ambivalently looking at a few status updates and calling that research. Social networking can be used as an effective way to screen candidates, but the four questions mentioned above need to be intentionally thought through in order to truly use social networking effectively and ethically in recruitment efforts.

Cross-Tab Marketing Services. (2010, January). Online reputation in a connected world. Published by Cross-Tab Marketing Services. Accessed from www.cross-tab.com.

Nash, L.L. (1993). Good intensions aside: A manager’s guide to resolving ethical problems. Boston: Harvard Business School Press.

The Paradox of Commitment

Is employee retention overrated? It almost sounds heretical for an HR guy to write that, but do we sometimes worry too much about retaining our employees in organizations?

Hall et al (2001) describe the paradox of commitment where “people are most able to develop internal commitments and attachments when they have the free choice to leave and choose to stay. To paraphrase the late Fritz Perls: If you love someone, let them go. If they truly love you, they will return. And if they do not, it was not meant to be” (p. 344). So if this is true, do we sometimes disadvantage both our employees and our organizations by gripping too tight to our employees?

The difficulty of having world-class talent in your organization is that top talent will be recruited by other organizations. It is only a matter of time before that talent is wooed by other organizations. But just imagine the liberating feeling of being an employee who gets a job offer every couple months, but who chooses to stay at an organization? She isn’t there because she has to be; she is there because she wants to be. What an amazing employee to have working under you. She will not operate out of fear of losing her job and may actually tell her boss he is wrong when he is wrong. If his fragile ego can’t handle it, oh well. She can take another job offer anytime.

As leaders, we invest a lot in the people who follow us (if we don’t, that’s another issue). It can be disheartening to consider losing that investment to another organization, and so we consciously (and sometimes unconsciously) do everything possible to keep our followers. In doing so, we sometimes smother them, constrain them, and become a little paranoid of them leaving. Paradoxically, trying too hard to keep them will drive them away. Encouraging our top talent to pursue other options may actually keep them. No one said talent management was easy or logical, but leaders who understand this will keep their talent around them.

Hall, D.T., Zhu, G. & Yan, A. (2001). Developing global leaders: Hold on to them, let them go. In William Mobley & Morgan McCall (Eds.). Advances in global leadership. Bingley, UK: Emerald Group Publishing.