How can the millennial workforce help my company succeed?

Young Worker - Executive Search Firm TorontoThe debate rages on about the merits of the millennial generation as this satirical video of a group of millennials apologizing for their failures went viral this week. It seems as if not a month passes without a prominent media outlet writing about the hardships, merits, or weaknesses of this generation of workers. The debate has not matured. Our President Gerlinde Herrmann wrote the article posted below for HRPA in March 2010, yet her advice to clients has not had to change: take advantage of what this generation can do, not least of all because they are the future of your company.


“The younger workforce/new grads, those generally in the 20-25 age group, are a generally underutilized part of the labour pool.

Over the last two years, many new grads have had frustrating job-hunting experiences. Companies have reduced job openings and when they have them, they ask for very specific experience — even when hiring contract or part time. Co-op, work terms and intern opportunities have also been scarce. Often these well-educated new workers have had to resort to making lattes, selling jeans or at best doing part-time work within their fields.

Even when there is potential work, many employers are hesitant to employ from Generation Y because it is felt that their expectations are unrealistic. Such concerns as: Are they willing to do the “grunt work” and pay their dues? Are they willing to do the job whatever it takes which can well mean longer hours? Can they take supervision? Do they need continual positive reinforcement (having received that from parents and teachers for so long)?

Yet, we can’t afford not to engage these bright young hopefuls. Somehow, it has been forgotten that before we entered this recession we were well aware of a looming talent shortage. Talent! Which every organization needs to stay in the game and succeed — especially after this latest grueling downturn. It’s no longer business as usual and without the appropriate talent how can one lead with strength? Many organizations have taken their collective eye off the talent crunch. These “kids” are our future and we haven’t brought them onboard enough to start filling the pipeline.

With all that in mind, what can this underutilized workforce do? They can: Demonstrate the “can-do” attitude and exuberance of youth. Be willing to take a job to prove themselves and understand that promotions need to be earned. And, an important advantage – they can use their almost instinctive tech skills to help the business. Show where there’s “an app for that”! The added advantage for an employer is their need for interesting work and challenge. This is a great time to combine a number of requirements in roles.”

What has your experience with millennial workers been?

Further Reading

Is the 21st century going to be the Century of Human Capital?

At the SHRM Conference in Chicago, Fareed Zakaria spoke about the rise in importance of human capital in the 21st century. The ability to enter into competition or start new business ventures is easier than ever given the increased access to technology, information and financial resources. These factors are no longer the barriers to entry that differentiate which companies succeed or fail. The key differentiator of the 21st century: the ability to attract, engage and retain talent. I agree with Fareed and would add that it’s not just talent but the range of skills and people that are needed to keep a company innovating. That’s a whole different kind of talent.

The barrier to innovation has been reduced by 95%.  Innovation is the new driver for business. You need only think of the smartphone market; how far blackberry has fallen behind and how Android, a late arrival, is now giving Iphones a run for their money. You don’t know whose nipping at your heels ready to take your place in the market.  Even though these considerations often seem in the realm of CEOs and Boards of Directors, Human Resources professionals need to be front and center supplying their company with the right mix of talent capable of keeping the company innovative. Regardless of the sectors, size of organization, type of product or service, global or local – all organizations face the same challenge:  How to attract, engage and retain the right type of workforce necessary for its sustainability.  This is the largest barrier to entry and risk to organizations.

HR must be at the table when developing business strategy. How else can they provide meaningful leadership on the range of people needed to be successful? Once the business strategy has been created by the business team (marketing, sales, finance, technology and YES HR), then HR can begin building meaningful HR strategies to ensure the company stays ahead of their competitors.

2013: A Year of Change for Corporate Governance?

Board MeetingChange is coming slowly but surely to boardrooms across Canada as the push to see more women on boards gain federal attention. With only 10% of director roles being given to women, and not much change over the last 5 years, Canada is falling behind other OECD countries. I think TD Bank deputy chief economist Beata Caranci says it best: “it implies a market failure to appreciate the skills and perspectives that women can bring to the table.” But it’s more than simply a failure of the system, it’s a lost opportunity.

A good friend of mine, Dr. Chris Bart, co-authored a study in which women scored higher than men on problems involving complex decisions. It seems that men are more likely to rely on traditional rules and regulations when making decisions, while women tend to challenge tradition and defined power structures. Someone who will push boundaries, question decisions, and solve problems creatively reads like a Board of Director’s job description. Companies are losing out when they undervalue the role female directors can play.

In response, the Government of Canada has formed a committee to discuss how Canadian boards can be better equipped. Several ideas have been bounced around in the media over the last year including a quota system, voluntary target or a ‘comply or explain’ scheme. A quota system similar to that found in France and Norway would mandate companies to have a percentage of women on their board. Were we to follow in Britain’s example a voluntary target system would ask companies to set a target and report on their progress, though no action would be taken if a target was not set. The Ontario Securities Commission broke the media tension on July 30th when it announced its proposal for a ‘comply or explain’ standard for publicly traded companies. It would mandate that publicly traded companies disclose their efforts in regard to diversifying their board in their annual corporate governance report. Its aim is to pressure companies to develop a policy by putting more information in to stakeholders hands.

The consultation paper, found here, is open for your comments until September 27th. While this is only the first step towards putting standards in place, increased pressure to see women at the board room table is a reality. Best to get ahead of this expectation and act now – Draw up a policy, a recruitment strategy, or give us a call. Who knows, you may just find yourself with a more well rounded and effective board.

What’s your experience been with boards? What do you think of a ‘comply or explain’ system?

Globe and Mail Coverage
January 25, 2013 – An optimistic view of board diversity
March 6, 2013 – Financial services boards move toward gender equity
March 25, 2013 – Female board members better than men on complex issues: study
April 5, 2013 – Members named for committee to boost women in boardrooms
April 7, 2013 – Fix Canada’s dismal record on appointing women to corporate boards
April 26, 2013 – To get more women on corporate boards, Canada must be bold
May 1, 2013 – Europe helps boost global growth of women on boards, but Canada little changed
May 28, 2013 – How the number of women on boards of directors has grown
May 28, 2013 – ‘Comply or explain’ a smart way to get more women on boards
May 28, 2013 – New rules aim for equality in Ontario’s corporate boardrooms
July 30, 2013 – OSC proposes gender equity policy for boards