Millennials are a technology-savvy, opinionated and enthusiastic group of younger workers who can’t wait to get into their careers. But, like in previous generations, any graduate scheme should take into consideration their sensitivities and concerns as well as their appetite for advancement.
Today’s graduates are similar to the groups that went before them in some respects and in others very different. On the whole they are looking for a degree of clarity from managers, as well as direction and a path for progression.
They essentially come from the same education system that taught the rest of us to follow rules, eat at specified times and work now, play later. So they still need the comfort and security of knowing they are in safe hands.
But they are also ambitious and have specific ideas of what a career should be. Few are searching for a job for life, most want a rich work-life balance and many see hobbies and voluntary work as central to career development, not separate from it.
They are much more aware of corporate social responsibility and are attracted to organisations that have a stated remit to help improve the world. They are attracted to big businesses for the opportunities they present, but want them to be dynamic and fast-moving like the start-ups in Silicon Valley.
What should a graduate programme look like?
A graduate programme, therefore, should satisfy the millennials’ craving to do real work from the get-go. Companies need to set proper business tasks and tap into the rich vein of energy and fresh ideas that young employees are ready to offer.
Graduates want to bring their ideas to the table and they don’t want to make your coffee; so it’s important to ask yourself what such a programme could do for your organisation, whether it employs 10 people or 10,000. What are your motivations and what can you deliver in return?
They want to learn the sort of broad business skills they know will help them in a new career or their own start-up in 10 years’ time. This generation knows they could switch jobs many times during their working lives, so they are on the look-out for transferable skills.
Businesses looking for creative input and technological nous will find strong candidates within this group of recruits, but only if you can set them ambitious targets and reward them adequately for outstanding work.
As digital natives they thrive on Facebook ‘likes’, retweets and endorsements, so businesses should find it beneficial to replicate social kudos in the real world. Technology is in their blood and while older people among us might have adapted well to online channels, these have never known a time when communications were slower and simpler.
This is the first generation to grow-up digitally-enabled; their lives have evolved faster than any before them, so change doesn’t scare them but standing still might.
How to nurture young talent
How do you manage this group of people to get the best out of them? The important thing to acknowledge is that millennials will soon become the majority of working people, meaning their version of what it means to do a job will quickly become the norm.
It doesn’t require a wholesale revolution in management practices; traditional methods of motivation such as target setting and rewards still apply, but managers should apply these principles to the context of a less patient group of people who are used to fast gratification.
So keep it varied. People love the fast-paced practices of organisations like Vodafone and they want to be involved in exciting projects from their first day. There is no need for the steady introduction of counting paper clips or changing printer ink.
Set them achievable goals and remember that they love hitting targets and moving up to the next level, give them encouragement but also remember that they want a seat at the table and a role in the decision-making process.
Conversely, reassure them if they have a wobble. Young people invest a lot when they sign up for a graduate scheme, so they need their trust to be returned and to know they made the right choice for their careers.
They are not as risk averse as previous generations but, due to their tender years, many will appreciate pastoral care and a hand to guide them through the new pressures and challenges they will face.
Hiring graduates is a brilliant way to inject fresh thinking into an organisation and create fresh impetus. Give young recruits what they need and they will return your investment of time and energy many times over.
Get it wrong and they will not be afraid to leave; perhaps heading for a rival business that understands their unique needs.