How To Attract And Retain Millennials?

Sep 30, 2016 1 Min Read


The modernisation of today’s workforce

There is no doubt about it. Millennials are proving to be a disruptive force in the workplace (in a good way), forcing organisations to step up in the way they attract and retain their talent.

Sometimes referred to as Gen Y, this generation of talents are known for being avid social media users and for their tendency to up and leave the organisations that they work for fairly quickly.

Some may see this as flighty or disloyal behaviour. But in truth, millennials are more prepared and equipped to move on to more fulfilling careers should their current job lack mental stimulation.

A research by Asian Institute of Finance entitled Gen-Y in the workplace: An international comparison highlighted that Gen Y are in fact loyal in a different way from previous generations.

About 17 per cent of Gen Y professionals also said they would stay with the same employer for more than five years and six per cent for more than 10 years, suggesting that they are happy to remain with an organisation for the long-term as long as they find their work engaging.

Recommended reading: Understanding How Millennials Are Changing The World Of Work

So, how does one attract and retain millennials in today’s times?

Understanding expectations of millenials


The first step to any intervention is to first pause, study and understand the subject.

However, the difference between the generations is that millennials demand genuineness and near-instantaneous gratification.

“It’s not that millennials have different personalities, but they have very different expectations and they always want things quicker, slicker and better,” says Sunway University head of psychology Professor Hew Gill.

“This means that millennials can be very impatient of processes or procedures that take a long time to complete, so successful businesses need to be quick and flexible when dealing with them.”

So, ask yourself how you can incorporate technology into your hiring and retention efforts. Dissect every pre-existing benefit and policy to see if they send out the right message to your audience. Focus groups come in handy at this stage of policy-making.

Establish solid employer branding

Today, branding is not just reserved for consumer goods. If you want your organisation to attract the right kind of talent, you have to position it in a way that would catch the eye of your target audience.

To be able to reach out to millennials, an organisation would have to employ methods of marketing and advertising that speak to millennials.

Social media is a great tool to use for employer branding, as millennials use these platforms as a primary way to gather information about businesses and organisations.

You may also like: What Makes You An Employer Of Choice?

For example, PwC Malaysia, which recently was voted as the top professional services firm in a recent employer branding awards, launched a social media campaign called #yourbestshot as an employer branding exercise.

“To attract the workforce of the future, we found it necessary to tap onto digital platforms and speak the ‘language’ of the millennials, which make up over 70% of our workforce in PwC,” says PwC executive director of human capital Salika Suksuwan.

“Our social media campaign leverages on elements that are important to millennials, such as their experiences, development and the fact that they love selfies!”

Create a new working culture

While baby boomers respect years of experience and have paved the way for a more hierarchical structure in the corporate world, millennials are creatures of meritocracy—they value and respect their colleagues based on their abilities.

This means that in order to engage and retain young talents, efforts must be made to reflect this in a work environment, and most importantly in a consistent manner. It is not enough to dole out recognition where recognition is due. It is crucial that pay, benefits, and company policies are in tangent with this new way of working.

A notable example of this shift in working culture would be Maxis Berhad (Maxis), and the complete revamp of their working lifestyle, both visually at the workplace level and in practice at a policy-level.

In line with the introduction of a flat structure, every employee, even the chief executive officer, uses the same type of workstation which was designed in an open layout and all titles have been eliminated with the exception of head of departments.

What’s more, they introduced benefits to eliminate hierarchy and promoted transparency and collaboration.

“To be successful, we must also introduce a new culture of working. One which is more open, transparent, flexible and offers a good balance between work and leisure, and also one that is more attractive to the millennials, as well as the millennials-at-heart,” says Maxis head of people Adzhar Ibrahim.

“Ultimately, creating a highly engaging culture and working space leads to new ways of working that is attractive to the top talents whom we need to be successful in the future. And it makes it easy for us to work well together and have fun.”

Listen to this podcast on how workplace culture can drive organisational results:

Communicate with transparency

In the past, transparency may have been crucial in certain industries, and not practised by others. But as the priority shifts towards existential fulfilment in the current generation, millennials are now more outspoken about their need for transparency.

It’s a causal shift—financial stability achieved by the baby boomers allow millennials to be selective of the jobs that they take up and the organisations they serve. And if they feel that an organisation is not being entirely transparent, they will not hesitate to up and leave to a more honest working environment.

Those who are not used to the concept of offering transparency to their employees may view millennials as being entitled—perhaps this is one of the reasons the generation has been labelled this harshly.

Rethink self-development opportunities

Working professional

Being the most educated generation, millennials thirst for growth and professional development from their employers.

According to the Asian Institute of Finance’s report, support in career progression and training ranked as the second most important factor that would improve their working life, with pay and benefits being the first.

“Millennials are looking for immediate opportunities to grow, especially one that leads to promotion and higher salary,” says Human Resource Development Fund senior manager of human capital Noorliza Nuruddin.

“If the organisation delays this opportunity, they will take their own initiatives for self-development. If they are impatient, they will move elsewhere.

“The challenge is for human resources (HR) to meet those needs and at the same time ensure they stay.”

So how does one tailor training and development courses to millennials?

Regular classroom-style training or lecturing just does not cut it anymore. For a generation that is used to reading less than 140 characters, presenting paragraphs of information and distributing wordy handouts for notes is probably the quickest way to ensure dissatisfaction and boredom.

Games are an excellent way of increasing participation and creating a hands-on learning experience. Personality or aptitude tests can also be a great way to begin a training session on a high note, as it caters to the thirst for self-awareness, while emphasising on individuality and the “me” factor—components that make social media highly attractive.

Millennials are the most technology-equipped generation, and value their own online research capabilities, sometimes over the credentials of their trainer. Capitalise on this characteristic to encourage more flexibility and enthusiasm in their learning process.

Build a good onboarding process

An onboarding process of an organisation is essential to new hires to ensure that they are aligned to their team and company culture, and are ready to get to work.

Millennials, being a generation that is looking to make an impact, want to know that their presence makes a difference to the organisation.

“Onboarding is a critical part of an effective talent management strategy that drives new employee engagement, accelerates productivity to contribute to company success and ability to sufficiently reward employees and significantly improves talent retention,” says Malaysian Employers Federation executive director Datuk Hj. Shamsuddin Bardan.

“An Employee Handbook with appropriate terms and conditions of employment presented to a new hire during the onboarding process is the company’s first impression to him that he feels welcomed, valued, and prepared for what lies ahead.”

With millennials, it is advisable to be transparent in the onboarding process, by communicating your organisation’s expectations of him/her, career advancement process, and do’s and don’ts in the workplace. Match their energy levels and convey your enthusiasm in having them on board.

To ensure that they fit in seamlessly with your organisation culture, assign an existing employee of the same age group as a buddy to this person, to show him/her around for the next couple of days.

The amount of thought put into the onboarding process in itself would speak volumes about the organisation, and generate the right impression to your new and young hires. HR conference 2016

Speaker profiles

Salika Suksuwan

Salika Suksuwan, PwC

Salika Suksuwan serves as the human capital executive director for PwC Malaysia and leads a team of energetic HR professionals with a mission of making PwC a stronger firm and a greater place to work at.

With 20 years of working experience under her belt which includes three years of secondment to TalentCorp, Suksuwan has been involved in numerous HR projects and initiatives, with assignments in Singapore, Jakarta, and Bangkok while working in professional services firms and financial services sector.

As a diversity advocate for TalentCorp, Suksuwan collaborates with a network of HR leaders to champion a higher participation rate of women in the Malaysian corporate workforce.

Catch Suksuwan’s segment entitled “Employer Branding, Bringing It to Life” where she will be focusing on how employers can build a strong brand by reaching out to millennials in a cost-effective manner.

Adzhar Ibrahim

Adzhar Ibrahim, head of people, Maxis BerhadIbrahim joined Maxis in July 2014, bringing with him 33 years of experience in HR across various industries and sectors, in both local and foreign-owned corporations. He is responsible for talent acquisition, performance and rewards, industrial relations and learning and development.

His focus is on putting in place “people” processes and policies to create a fresh, strong Maxis culture that will push Maxis towards achieving its business ambitions.

Ibrahim has held leading roles in HR for various organisations, including Maxis during its start-up phase. Prior to rejoining Maxis in his most recent posting, Ibrahim has served as group head of people for AirAsia, head of HR for, Sime Darby and Standard Chartered Bank.

Catch Ibrahim’s segment entitled “New Ways of Working” where he will be focusing on introducing a new working culture, one which is more transparent, flexible and balanced, and one that is also more attractive to millennials, as well as the millennials-at-heart.

Professor Hew Gill

Professor Hew Gill, Head Of Psychology, Sunway UniversityProfessor Hew Gill is a renowned British psychologist who joined Sunway University in 2016 as head of psychology after a successful career as an entrepreneur, public servant, banker, senior manager and academic. Before joining Sunway, Hew was part of the senior team running a Singapore stock-market listed education group with international operations around Asia.

As a business builder, Hew established and grew several brands and companies into successful businesses trading globally. In public service, he held major portfolios ranging from corporate governance to children’s services and education with responsibility for budgets of billions of pounds.

Throughout his career, Hew has also been an academic teaching and researching as a fellow of the Advanced Institute of Management, Leeds Business School, and Leeds University where he taught various courses including business psychology, psychological testing, assessment and appraisal, and research methods.

Catch Hew’s segment entitled “The Psychology of Talent Management, How to Find, Train and Retain Top Performers” where he will be sharing three key areas of psychology to help an organisation to succeed, as well as how to use body language to understand and influence others effectively.

Noorliza Nuruddin

Noorliza Nuruddin, Senior Manager Of Human Capital, HRDFNoorliza is the head of human capital division in Human Resource Development Fund (HRDF), which operates under the Ministry of Human Resources. The objective of HRDF is to be the driving force in training and development of the workforce while enhancing workforce knowledge, skills and capabilities through effective management of its fund.

Beginning 2015, she has been tasked with the human capital transformation in bringing HRDF as the industry advisor and point of reference—in order to drive Malaysia to achieve a fully developed nation through skilled workforce. In 2011, she was responsible for the establishment of the National Human Resource Centre (NHRC), an initiative under the SRI-Human Resource Management.

In her previous experience which includes postings with multinational and government-linked organisations, she has provided both training and consulting services to organisations in different industries and has lectured in both private and public higher institutes of learning.

Catch Noorliza’s segment entitled “Developing In-House Warriors” where she will be sharing how HRDF supports the government in attaining 30% skilled workforce by 2020.

Datuk Haji Shamsuddin

Datuk Hj Shamsuddin Bardan-executive-director-malaysian, Employers FederationAs the executive director of Malaysia Employers Federation (MEF), Shamsuddin heads the MEF Secretariat with a team consisting of 32 professional staff and 20 support staff. MEF is the apex private sector employers’ organisation in Malaysia with more than 4,800 ordinary members and 21 association members which collectively employ more than 2.2 million employees.

As the executive director of MEF, Shamsuddin recommends policies to be pursued by MEF in ensuring that the private sector in Malaysia operates in a more business-friendly environment and, thus, remain competitive.

The work of Shamsuddin in managing MEF was internationally and regionally recognised when he was appointed as the secretary-general of Confederation of Asia Pacific Employers (CAPE) and secretary-general of ASEAN Confederation of Employers (ACE) (2013–2015).

Catch Shamsuddin’s segment entitled “Employee Handbook: Onboarding, the Importance and the Expectations” where he will reveal how and why an organisation’s employee handbook enables millennials to greater understand their employment, thereby reducing potential disputes and enhancing job satisfaction, productivity and talent retention.

Nisha is a senior writer with The Star Media Group’s digital content team, with an interest in the subjects of emotional intelligence, personality theories, and cats. A travel junkie at heart, when she’s not globetrotting, she finds herself musing about possible alien lifeforms.

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