Need Talent? Try ‘Millennials’ - Foundations
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Need Talent? Try ‘Millennials’

Written By: Matt Di Iorio

Article Date: 12-03-2007
Copyright(C) 2008 Associated Equipment Distributors. All Rights Reserved.

A fresh perspective on a common struggle.

While traveling last month, I stopped by one of the bookstores at O'Hare Airport. And there it was - the book I had been searching for. The title promised to address one of the most commonly asked questions in equipment distribution: "Recruit or Die: How Any Business Can Beat the Big Guys in the War for Young Talent" (published by Portfolio Hardcover, August 2007).

Sure, the title is a little dramatic. But, so is the topic. The challenge of finding, developing and keeping quality employees is endemic. This book, however, comes at the recruitment challenge from a perspective I haven't experienced before. Two of the three authors graduated from college in 2004 and 2005, respectively.

"Recruit or Die" focuses primarily on how to recruit Millennials graduating from college. Millennials are the generation born between 1980 and 2000. College is the place we often overlook when recruiting managers who can adapt and grow in a changing environment. But I'll save that topic for another column.

The Millennials who co-authored this book recommend that employers focus on personal contact, both on campus and off. Today's college graduates are, however, less interested in what you have to say than they are in what recent graduates and current employees have to say about your company. "Sell your people first, your company second," the authors admonish. Selling the "image" of your company or the industry you serve won't help if prospective employees don't connect on some level with someone you currently employ.

Unfortunately, most of the best practices cited in the book involve large companies. But I know that there are equipment dealers who are using the tactics outlined in this book. Large companies are not immune to the challenge of finding and keeping good people. For instance, Toyota, despite challenging GM as the nation's biggest automaker this spring, is struggling. Several senior Toyota executives have accepted positions with American automakers over the past year. 

James Womack, author of "The Machine That Changed the World" and other books about Toyota, believes "the company has not produced the number of quality managers they need to support their growth rate," according to a recent New York Times article. The loss of talent is a "big, big problem," said Womack. It was reported in the same article that Consumer Reports has stopped giving automatic "recommended" status to all Toyota cars and trucks, and it will take several years of solid performance for Toyota to get it back.

My point is not to throw Toyota under the proverbial bus, but to note that even the nation's No. 2 automaker can struggle to hold on to talent. Small and large corporations are not so very different in that regard.

This may seem like an awkward time to talk about recruiting. Business conditions have been challenging in many parts of the country over the past year, and 2008 may not be much better. Few would argue, however, that in good times or bad, the ability to recruit, develop and capitalize on talent correlates strongly with an organization's ability to grow.

I don't think the book "Recruit or Die" has all the answers. It doesn't provide any shortcuts to the process of asking young men and women to invest a significant portion of their lives with your company. The authors do provide some interesting and helpful insights from the graduate's perspective.

The bottom line is: "Entry-level hiring on college campuses increased nearly 13.8 percent in 2005-06 and another 17.4 percent in 2006-07," according to the National Association of Colleges and Employers. And we must keep looking for new and better ways to attract entry-level talent.

Ken Blanchard once suggested that employers really only have three choices when it comes to growing their talent pool. They can hire winners. But winners are expensive and often come with baggage. They can hire potential winners and invest in professional development. Or, he said jokingly, they can pray.

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Article Categories:  Workforce