Aquaculture North America

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Inside the minds of millennials

Takeaways on recruiting and retention from two talent experts


June 8, 2021
By Lynn Fantom

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As employees, millennials have exerted a dramatic influence in the workplace Photo: ©auremar Adobe Stock

The oldest millennials, born in 1981, turn 40 this year.  They are reaching their prime working years, starting families, and buying homes.  That’s a far cry from the entitled, highly educated, phone-obsessed job-hoppers many employers may still envision.

Aquaculture North America took a fresh look at the values and habits of millennials, now ranging in age from 25 to 40, to help employers get an inside track recruiting and retaining this generation, the largest in both Canada and the US.

Aquaculture recruiter Leah Stoker knows millennials well.  Over the last ten years, she’s been coaching, training, and recruiting them.  Last year, she helped launch Norway’s AquacultureTalent’s first US office in northern California.  

Stoker’s key message is this: with millennials, it’s all about engagement.  “They want to engage, be part of things, have their voices heard,” she says.  “These are not people who sit on the sidelines.”

For employers seeking to recruit this cohort, demonstrating that the organization listens — with tools like employee satisfaction surveys — can go a long way.  Plus, companies need to communicate in ways millennials enjoy, particularly through social media. 

Today, employees shape corporate reputations.  Global public relations firm Weber Shandwick has dubbed millennials “employee activists.” One of the company’s studies found that 45 to 58 percent of social millennials post about their employers in some way, whether by liking an employer’s Facebook posts, posting pictures of work events, or sharing employer’s social media posts.  The majority of these so-called activists does so a few times per month.

In this way, employees can indirectly become part of the recruitment process.  Reflecting this, one of Stoker’s mantras is “reward, retain, refer.” 

On the other hand, this activism can turn negative, on Glassdoor, for example. The job search site says it provides the “inside scoop” on companies with tools like employee reviews. These require reporting both “pros” and “cons.”  

If a company’s brand emphasizes engagement, that carefully cultivated image can be tarnished when an employee writes “Communication from corporate to satellite offices was abysmal. Planning would happen but would either remain uncommunicated or be forgotten.” (One aquaculture employee actually did say that.)

Stoker exhorts companies to take on their online reputations fearlessly.  In fact, in her prior position, she convinced the leadership team to encourage employees to post on Glassdoor.  Employees felt happy they were asked, the management team learned more about issues, and the Glassdoor ratings improved “substantially.” 

As employees, millennials have exerted a dramatic influence in the workplace, from shorter work hours to company perks like free gym memberships and in-office snack bars. They have brought more diversity to the workplace.  

As leaders, they are positioned to promote change that is equally profound.  Companies are sure to benefit from the millennial generation’s technological prowess.  As managers who influence budgets, they will help fulfill technology’s promises of data-driven insights, automation, production improvements, and more intensive closed systems.  

They are likewise adept at driving new ways to work and collaborate in a virtual world — the “new world of work sparked by the global pandemic,” says Gary Villani, a New York-based certified executive coach and expert in leadership development.  

Even as millennials themselves join management, they will continue to have high expectations of their employers.  Professional development is one of them.  After all, this cohort is better educated than prior generations, according to Pew Research.  

“As millennials move into leadership positions, they need to shift from being outstanding producers to work enablers,” Villani says.  “In other words, they need to develop skills that motivate, engage, and inspire their teams.  More specifically, they need to work on emotional intelligence, empathy, and interpersonal and relationship skills.”  

And the good news is that “a robust learning and development offering not only improves organizational performance but is also a talent magnet for many companies,” Villani adds.