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5 Ways to Hire - and Retain - Millennials in Your Small Business

You've heard the warnings about hiring millennials: they don't want to work hard, they lack focus, they don't show up for work regularly and more. Granted, when it comes to employee attitudes, times have changed. But, have you considered that maybe they're right?

On the surface, millennials seem to sport bad attitudes, but a deeper look indicates that most millennial employees need to be happy and engaged on the job. Isn't employee engagement the thing that dedicates them to the success of your company? If you use the following five tips to hire the right people and keep them engaged, your employees may stay longer… to your company's benefit.

#1. Don't let job hopper resumes scare you away.

Employers generally forgive a prospect resume showing great skills and experience with a job hop in the mix of longer-term jobs. But, what if the chronology shows many jobs that ran for less than two years?

Before throwing those resumes in the trash, look closely into the history. Did the short-term jobs advance the applicant's knowledge in a specific area that you need? Did the employee develop significant industry insight by working for some of your competitors?

The right answers to questions like these can signal a good hire for you. If you can offer a job that keeps the recruit interested, that person may become a long-term asset.

#2. Make interviews two-way conversations.

In the "olden days", interviews were basically a painful Q & A session. Currently, interviewers have made it worse with the absurd-question technique. Personally, I'd rather learn more about an applicant's skills and personality, rather than knowing what applicants would do if they were elephants that encountered a pea in their path.

No Q&A session reveals as much about a person as a real conversation. It's better to discuss an applicant's resume rather than firing off questions about it. Your theories about how much learning can take place even on short-term jobs can encourage them to volunteer their own personal learning experiences — and even explain why they chose to leave a number of jobs in short order. What a perfect opportunity to explain why those reasons don't exist at your company!

Interviews are nerve-wracking, while conversations are comfortable. You will learn much more about the person-behind-the-application — and they get to know you better — when you're both relaxed.

#3. Let them hit the ground running on day one.

I have heard a number of individuals describe early experiences with new employers. One associate in particular explains how all training with no work can create a lack of team inclusion that never seems to go away.

Her new employer scheduled her for constant comprehensive customer training classes over two months. The employee learned about products and developed relationships with many customers and a few other new employees. Unfortunately, she never interacted with the people she worked with, and the lack of personal accomplishments and work relationships made it difficult for her to come in to work each day. If she had been a millennial, she probably would not have stayed long.

If you saw fit to hire someone, then you probably recognized their value, so why not make use of that value starting on the first day? Plan for immediate meaningful work interspersed with training and they are likely to stick around much longer.

#4. Keep them stretching.

Even millennials want a certain comfort level within the expectations of their jobs, but they also enjoy the opportunity to stretch beyond their current skills. Add "stretch breaks" to their normal responsibilities. You may have to offer a little extra guidance, but if new tasks make use of their current abilities or interests, they'll enjoy the challenge.

There's a wrong and right way to do this. A person who currently writes Requests for Proposals (RFPs) to hire outside vendors, for example, might welcome the opportunity to write the proposals that your software company submits to prospective clients. The fear factor (or possibly total hysteria) sets in, however, if you ask that same person to analyze your company's existing software programs to find out why they don't work. Let them stay in their lane.

#5. Allow them to make a difference.

Millennials thrive when their work makes a notable difference to the company and small businesses offer the best opportunity to make this happen. All of their earlier jobs probably gave them ideas that might improve your business process or enhance customer support.

Even though millennials sometimes make suggestions in a politically-incorrect manner, let them know that you want to hear them. Whenever possible, task them with the implementation of their ideas to add a sense of value to their days — and to your business.

Millennial and business needs are often in sync.

Astute small business owners can readily recognize that engaged employees benefit all aspects of a company. When millennials demand challenging jobs, they pay it forward by contributing to the company's daily processes and customer service.

Douglas R. Conant, who headed up a number of major corporations before founding his own leadership company, said it best: "To win the marketplace you must first win in the workplace." When employees get to regularly contribute to your company, everyone wins. Your millennial employees' needs directly align with your company's needs. Keep them engaged and happy, and they will create a stronger company — and loyal customers.

About the author

Carol Roth is a radio host on WGN, a CNBC TV contributor, a ‘recovering’ investment banker & a bestselling author of The Entrepreneur Equation. You can find her on Twitter @CarolJSRoth or at She also has an action figure made in her likeness.