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Report On Business How to recruit and retain the next cohort of leaders: millennials

Linda Blair is managing partner, Ontario, Deloitte Canada; Miyo Yamashita is managing partner, talent & workplace, Deloitte Canada, and member, Deloitte global board of directors.

The Canadian economy is providing reason for optimism. A surge in full-time work has fuelled 10 consecutive months of net job gains. Against this powerful growth, Canadian organizations are competing for talent. The pressure is on to attract and retain top talent in order to compete globally. Now, more than ever before, leaders must make deliberate and bold changes to how they recruit to meet the needs of the next cohort of leaders: millennials.

The headlines are familiar. Millennials, born after 1982, approach the work force differently than their parents. Millennials have been called job-hoppers, fickle and narcissistic. But we see it differently. We know they do not define their work by their paycheque alone. Instead, work is about corporate social responsibility, fairness and the opportunity to give back. It's about having a purpose and building a career out of it. In other words, we found that millennials are serial impact-seekers. This, in turn, has challenged businesses to adapt recruitment and engagement tactics.

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Here is how we are recruiting, engaging and retaining millennials. These principles are also a benchmark for qualities that millennials should keep in mind when choosing an employer and cultivating professional experience.

Enable and encourage leadership at every level

Individuals want to grow and have meaningful opportunities to advance their capabilities. At our firm, we're committed to rapidly growing the world's best leaders, so that they can achieve the impact they seek at an accelerated pace.

According to our annual Millennial Survey, more than three-quarters (76 per cent) of the millennials surveyed regard business as a force for positive social impact. And to achieve this impact, millennials require leadership skills. Skills such as active listening, analyzing, collaborating, influencing or, in the management-consulting business, asking difficult questions and presenting a contrary point of view, are all critical to tackling some of the most complex, and entrenched, business and social challenges.

We believe that leadership skills can be taught. We teach these skills on projects with our clients and community partners, and at Deloitte University, our leadership development locale. We also believe leadership development should start as early as the recruiting stage.

This summer, we hosted the Deloitte National Leadership Conference (DNLC), which brought together more than 100 of Canada's top students studying subjects that range from chemical engineering and computer science to commerce and the arts. The conference provided participants with a chance to strengthen their communication, leadership and teamwork skills all while learning how a firm like ours tackles real-world business challenges. We saw a purposeful work result when the students came together with our senior leaders to solve a business challenge for a non-profit organization.

The students were not afraid to ask questions and to challenge our leaders' assumptions and practices. Their rigour and tenacity were at times unexpected.

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In addition, the students challenged how we see ourselves and it resulted in a better outcome – both for us as and for the non-profit organization they were helping.

Flexibility and autonomy: Your work, your way approach

Our study also tells us that millennials feel accountable for many issues in the workplace and in the world. However, it is in the work force where they feel the most impactful. Millennial empowerment requires employers to offer greater flexibility and autonomy. We call this "your work, your way," and it means empowering our people to work in the ways that allow them to thrive – professionally and personally. This means measuring results over face-time and impact over chargeable hours, as well as regular time off for passions ranging from volunteer work, to achieving health and wellness goals, to having control over time spent with friends and family.

Increasingly, flexible work forces have meant agile workplaces and offices without assigned seats. Greater flexibility may also include sabbaticals, new approaches to learning and performance management, secondments to charitable organizations and job rotation programs. When millennials are given the chance to work in this manner, higher degrees of personal accountability, engagement and retention are the result.

Greater diversity will define a strong Canada: leverage the 'inclusion generation'

Millennials are the inclusion generation. They place a much greater emphasis on inclusion, which they define as part of a company's corporate culture in how an organization listens to you and your generation. Millennials see inclusion as a reflection in varying ideas and work styles versus a representation of equity and fairness based on demographic and socio-cultural traits. We, like many Canadian companies, are working to achieve the benefits of an inclusive and united work force. A precondition of this is to ensure we have highly talented and engaged people with a diverse set of views, backgrounds, education and experiences.

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At our DNLC this summer, we asked attendees about what the term inclusion meant to them. The most common definition underscored the importance of having all opinions heard and considered. Millennials said they wanted to feel part of the decision-making process, and want their opinions to be valued and respected.

These responses tell us that employees seek a deep sense of belonging and the assurance they can bring their "whole self" to work. For us, this means all ideas are on the table – we want our people to feel included and inspired every day.

When an organization brings together people with different backgrounds, skill sets and mindsets – and helps them feel deeply included as unique individuals – it achieves superior financial performance, improved talent retention and greater capacity to innovate.

There is an opportunity to improve engagement and retention among millennials – and build a stronger and more inclusive Canada in the process. Both shareholders and the inclusion generation await.

Executives, educators and human resources experts contribute to the ongoing Leadership Lab series.

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