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Hiring, onboarding, and management strategies for young professionals


By Sabine Vollmer

The largest demographic group in the US labour market is also the least engaged in the workplace, and that’s a problem, according to Gallup research, because poorly engaged employees lower companies’ profitability, productivity, and innovation.

The approximately 73 million Millennials (born between 1980 and 1996) make up the largest share of the US labour market, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data. About 53.5 million Americans working or looking for work in the first quarter of 2015 were Millennials, compared with 52.7 million Generation Xers (born between 1965 and 1979) and 44.6 million Baby Boomers (born between 1946 and 1964).

Of the three generations, Millennials have the highest rates of unemployment and underemployment, Gallup found, and the highest annual turnover rate (21%, or more than three times that of non-Millennials). Lack of engagement drives turnover, especially amongst young employees, who tend to be more transient than Gen Xers and Baby Boomers with families and mortgages. Gallup found that 55% of Millennials are indifferent about work and show up just to put in their hours, compared with 50% of Gen Xers and 48% of Baby Boomers.

In the workplace, Gallup Chairman Jim Clifton writes in the report, Millennials look for:

  • Purpose in addition to fair compensation.
  • Development opportunities.
  • Managers who coach them to build their strengths.
  • Ongoing conversations and consistent feedback about their job performance.
  • Employers that give them a chance to do what they do best every day.

Based on Gallup’s engagement data, about half the employees of any generation aren’t getting what they are looking for, said Doug Blizzard, vice president of membership at Capital Associated Industries, a not-for-profit that helps businesses with human resources, people compliance, and management issues.

“It comes down to simple blocking and tackling many companies don’t do well,” Blizzard said.

To capture the hearts and minds of Millennials, and employees of other generations, for that matter, companies should assess how they hire, bring recruits on board, and promote managers, Blizzard said. Here are strategies he recommended to boost employee engagement:

Hiring. The best accounting talent is hired through referrals and networking, so companies should ask themselves what they can do to encourage employees to refer friends. As digital natives, Millennials are the most wired of the generations, Gallup found. Seventy-one per cent use the internet as an information source, compared with 51% of Gen Xers and 30% of Baby Boomers. And 93% of Millennials use social media to connect with friends and family, compared with 84% of older generations. Businesses, especially those looking for young professionals, could provide employees with recruitment language to post on their social media accounts, such as Twitter or Facebook, Blizzard suggested.

Official hiring ads should focus on what recruits will be able to learn and accomplish rather than the duties they have to fulfil, he said. And taking young professionals to college recruitment fairs helps attract promising talent.

To assess how the recruitment and hiring process works and whether it attracts the best talent, businesses should survey their hiring managers.

Onboarding. New hires should neither be overwhelmed nor left to their own devices during their first few days on the job, Blizzard said.

New employees should start with a desk, business cards, and an agenda for the first week on the job. Young professionals especially should be assigned a buddy who can help out initially, he said. And the manager should sit down with the new employee and map out milestones to be reached the first 90 days and the first year.

Managing. A manager needs to quickly learn how a new employee wants to communicate, be it by texting, in person, or by phone, and then use that mode of communication, Blizzard said. Also, in addition to email, businesses should offer an internal social platform that allows employees to chat.

To keep up with what’s going on, managers should have employees check in regularly for 30 minutes to an hour. The check-ins should be once a week initially but never less frequent than once a month, he said.

Especially in technically demanding professions such as accounting, businesses should ensure that different career pathways exist for people with different skillsets. Somebody with great technical skills but poor people skills should be able to advance professionally without having to become a manager, Blizzard said. “You don’t want to lose a great accountant to gain a lousy manager.”

Sabine Vollmer (svollmer@aicpa.org) is a CGMA Magazine senior editor.