March 2017 Motivate On The Cover

Drawing In A Strong Workforce for the Future


I was recently talking to a client who said, “I just don’t get these kids who are coming into the workforce right now — they have a completely different way of looking at their jobs. When I started working, it was common to put in 70 to 80 hours a week and I understood that I had to earn the right to get a promotion and move up in the business.” She went on to add, “They don’t seem to have the same work ethic, and they feel like they’re entitled to a raise and a promotion every few months; it drives me crazy.”

My answer was, “Yep, and you’re going to have to get used to it; this is your workforce of the future.”

According to the Pew Research Center, “Millennials have surpassed Baby Boomers as the nation’s largest living generation, according to population estimates released this month (April 2016) by the U.S. Census Bureau. Millennials, whom we define as those ages 18-34 in 2015, now number 75.4 million, surpassing the 74.9 million Baby Boomers (ages 51-69). And Generation X (ages 35-50 in 2015) is projected to pass the Boomers in population by 2028.”

Many people complain about millennials, but the truth of the matter is that they are the most well-educated and technologically savvy generation ever to enter the workforce. Yes, they do have a different value set when it comes to how they view their careers, which can be challenging for “older” workers to understand, but they also bring a world of highly valuable ideas and skills.

Two years ago, I did a study of college students who were about to graduate or had been out in the workforce for three years or less. I asked them what was most important to them in their professional careers, and here were the answers in order of priority:

1. Do challenging, meaningful work that I’m passionate about
2. Make a difference in the world by helping to solve social or environmental problems
3. Work with cool colleagues who are good at what they do
4. Have a good work-life balance where I can spend time with my friends and family
5. Have flexibility in how and where I work
6. Work in a company that is respected and has a strong positive corporate culture

If you want to attract, engage and retain young professionals, you must offer them the things on the list above. So, my questions to you are:

• What specifically are you doing in your organization that helps your younger employees achieve these things that are so important to them?
• Does your business have a clear and compelling purpose?
• Are you involved in important projects that make a difference in your community, our country and/ or the world?
• Do you refuse to tolerate mediocrity and employ only people who are talented team players?
• Do you support your employees in managing work-life balance by offering flexible hours or the option to work virtually?
• Do you have a corporate culture that is supportive, engaging, fun and highly productive?

Some of you probably look at this list of questions and think to yourself, “Shouldn’t they just be happy to have a job? If I’m giving them a paycheck, they need to be here, on time, and do the work. This isn’t about having fun and changing the world; it’s about running a profitable business.”

Well, yes and no. The goal is to run a successful and profitable business, but the hard fact is that the future of your company is directly determined by the quality of the people who work for you. It’s just like the Gators: If you want to win the National Championship, you have to have the best players on your team, and it is absolutely no different in your business. So, step back and take a look at your organization…why would the best and brightest millennials want to work for you?


JOHN SPENCE has been recognized as one of the top 100 business thought leaders and as one of the top 500 leadership development experts in the world. He is an international keynote speaker and management consultant and has written five books on business and life success.

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