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How to Lead Millennials in Recruitment: Part 1

February 8th, 2017 by James Jennings

You may have seen the recent viral video from Simon Sinek on millennials in the workplace (If you haven’t you can check it out here). It raises some really interesting points on how our upbringing has affected our ability to adapt to modern working life. It got me thinking about recruitment and the challenges our leaders face with an increasingly millennial workforce.

There are some absolutely fantastic leaders in the recruitment industry and I have had the pleasure of working with and for many of them. However, since moving out of agency I’ve had the opportunity to connect with many recruiters and discuss their views on the on the various agencies they’ve worked for. The feedback I received was that many agencies had yet to adapt their organisational culture for the millennial workforce and that was causing many to consider a move.

There are many sources citing staff turnover in the industry as high as 40% and the national average for all industries has floated around 15% for the last few years. That’s a huge difference.

It’s perplexing that as experts in recruitment and retention who are paid to educate clients in these fields, we so often get it wrong in our own backyard.

I was unable to find statistics on the number of millennials specifically working in recruitment today, but as many in the industry will tell you, they already make up a large proportion of the workforce. Unfortunately, they are often the ones we see heading for the exit door. A recent PWC report suggest millennials will make up 50% of the global workforce by 2020. So it’s in everybody’s interest to fix this now.

We’re known as the ‘job-hopping’ generation and there is evidence to suggest we do change jobs more frequently than previous generations. And I have a theory on why that might be:


We’re the most well informed generation there has ever been.

If we want to know what it’s like to work in another business we just ‘google it’. Social media features the constant rantings of disgruntled employees and there are a plethora of sites that showcase the best places to work and what happens in great companies.

Put simply – we know when we’re getting a raw deal and we’re not afraid to go and find a better one.

So, I write this piece in the hope of sparking conversation on a serious issue that we need to urgently address to ensure the continued success of the industry. Recruiters play a critical role in the economy and we need healthy, strong and effective recruitment agencies.

From the millennials, here’s what we need to address:


1: Stop talking about recruitment in dollar terms!


The Deloitte Millennial Survey 2017 confirmed it. Millennials want their work to serve a purpose, to be about more than just earning a living. The survey explained that many millennials feel they’re unable to make an impact on the social issues society faces individually, but feel they have a platform to do that through their employers. However, many of the recruiters I spoke to felt disengaged and didn’t feel that they, or their organisations, were making a difference. It was ‘just a job’.

The fascinating thing is that recruiters make a difference every day. They’re changing people’s lives, finding them new careers, helping businesses flourish with fresh talent. They just don’t always feel like they’re making a difference. And I believe that’s in part because our leaders don’t communicate it. Our leaders are too often inclined to talk about simply revenue and profit.

If you haven’t watched Sinek’s other viral video, How Great Leaders Inspire Action and you’re a leader, stop reading this right now and watch it. These 18 minutes will completely change the way you lead.

I would highly encourage all leaders to review their vision, mission and values. Do not underestimate the power that these have, to create a culture where individuals feel like they are working towards a common purpose. Why does your business exist? What is its contribution to society? And no, making money doesn’t count.

When you finish reading this, head to the floor and talk to your teams. Ask them what the vision for the company is. Ask them what the mission statement is. In fact, ask them what’s one strategic objective that the company is trying to achieve this year? Other than ‘make more money’. I would bet a good proportion have no idea. How can you expect your teams to feel like they’re part of something bigger if they have no idea what they’re supposed to be working towards?

LinkedIn is a great example a company getting it right. Their vision:


2. To create economic opportunity for every member of the global workforce.


Who doesn’t want to be part of that? I know plenty of the guys that work there – they literally think they’re changing the world! And they are.

They have video calls fortnightly with their Global CEO and he communicates this vision consistently. The Global CEO of a 10,000+ employee business is taking the time out to update and inspire his entire workforce every two weeks. If you’re not at the same frequency you’re missing a massive trick.

And he doesn’t just talk about: “Hey we grew our revenue to $Xbillion”. He talks about the new tools they’re bringing in to make the lives of professionals easier, he updates them and on how close they’re getting to achieving their vision and mission. He talks about their contribution to society!

If you want an example, I would highly encourage you to watch this video from one of the company ‘All Hands’ that Jeff Weiner, CEO, gave following the Microsoft acquisition.


“The creation of economic opportunity and increasing socio-economic stratification will be the defining issue of our time. And there is no company, anywhere in the world, better positioned to help individuals, the people they care about, the people that work for them, to navigate these uncertain times.”

He talks about the company’s role in helping society tackle the challenges they face. The work that LinkedIn does still generates revenue, it’s still a commercial business, but it’s about more than that.

Think about what your agencies vision, mission and values are and communicate them, live and breathe them – and importantly, recruit your teams based on them!

Given the extensive feedback, I received this article has been broken up into 3 parts. The following two parts will be released shortly.

About the Author: James is an ex-recruiter turned start-up founder passionate about changing the industry for the better. He actively encourages participation and comments, both positive and negative, with a view to sparking the difficult conversations the industry needs to have. He recently co-founded Sourcr (www.sourcr.com), an online recruitment marketplace to connect Employers with Australia’s best Recruiters. His vision is to streamline the process of outsourcing recruitment to make it faster, fairer and more effective for all!