Why the Talent Gap Is a Generational Issue: 5 Tips for Recruiting and Getting the Best from Millennials on Your Team

By Kristy Campbell

As any entrepreneur or investor will tell you, the secret sauce to successfully starting and growing a new company is talent, talent, talent—and then technology.

With Baby Boomers retiring at a rate of about 10,000 a day, Millennials—those born between 1981 and 1996—make up more than a third of the U.S. working population. With more than 55 million working or seeking employment, Millennials, are the answer to the talent gap.

Millennials are looking for specific things from their work experience. Successfully recruiting and employing them calls for understanding what they want and how they work and for a new and innovative approach.

Millennials value learning and career growth over perks.

Yoga, ping-pong, and free lunches are great, but young talent want more. They want to see how they will be happy and productive at work. They want to know how their role fits into the company’s goals and operations. They are looking for passion, enthusiasm, and mission, but don’t limit the discussion only to opportunities. Talk to Millennial candidates about the challenges your startup is working to overcome, the industry problems you are trying to solve. Ask them how they see themselves contributing to a solution. Stress your desire for creativity, new ideas, independent thought. Help them recognize the unique career potential in the very demanding work of building a company.

Startups that excel at inclusion and diversity gain the cutting edge with Millennials.

Millennials (and the GenZ cohort coming next) are the most diverse adult generations in U.S. history. In 10 states—including those with some of the largest populations—minorities comprise more than half the Millennial populations. The opportunity for startups to build diversity into their hiring practices and teams has never been better; the reasons have never been stronger. Companies with diverse founders leaders, advisors, and teams typically out-perform industry norms and achieve better financial results. Diversity begets diversity. Make at least one of your first two hires a female or minority.

Construct a company culture based on community.

Millennials value the feeling of belonging with the flexibility to express their individuality and style. They are used to creating connections—virtually, online, and in the real world. From foosball in the break room, to softball teams, to time off for volunteer service, keeping Millennials engaged with the team builds loyalty and commitment. This is a winner for your customers, your team, and your business

Millennials are brand-focused—on yours and theirs.

Millennials investigate everything on the Internet and with their friends. They will check out you, your present (and former) employees, your customers, and your investors (if you have any). They will network with friends, friends of friends, and even strangers to learn more. Make your online presence honest, appealing, energetic, and up-to-date. Millennials aren’t hierarchical, but they do want to hear about their performance and their opportunity for advancement and to build on their brand.

Work-life balance matters to Millennials.

While 14-hour days often are the norm for entrepreneurs and startup teams, friends, fitness, and free time are important to Millennials. Companies that offer flex time, work-from-home, and time off (not vacation) for errands and childcare needs gain an edge.

With nearly a decade of economic growth and the lowest unemployment rate in 30 years, these are challenging times for any company seeking to recruit and retain outstanding talent. For startups, finding and hiring the right Millennial talent is likely to be the difference between make or break.

Sources: PEW Research and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Kristy Campbell leads operations for Rev1 Ventures, the investor startup studio providing strategic services and capital to help startups scale and corporates innovate. She supports cross-team delivery of client services – including talent programs, corporate partnerships, infrastructure (via Rev1 Labs’ innovation center), and access to investment capital.  Kristy also leads Rev1’s Inclusive Entrepreneurship efforts, focused on reducing bias and improving access to resources and capital for women and minority inventors and entrepreneurs.

Millennials stock photo by fizkes/Shutterstock