How Facebook attracts and retains Millennial talent

Millennials are 'strikingly similar' to other generations, Goler says

Millennials—the generation aged 18 to 34 as of 2015—make up more than one-third of all employees in the United States today and are expected to make up nearly half of all employees by 2025, according to a Pew Research Center survey.

That makes it all the more important for companies to understand what makes Millennials tick—something that Facebook has worked hard to achieve, says Lori Goler, head of people at Facebook, the first Fortune 500 company to be founded and led by a Millennial.

For the past seven years, Facebook has conducted internal employee surveys and found that Millennials' workplace desires are "strikingly similar" to those of other generations, with Millennials also seeking a sense of purpose, room for growth, and opportunities to utilize their unique strengths. Goler shares her tips in Harvard Business Review on what organizations need to know in order to understand, attract, and retain Millennial talent.

Millennials need fulfillment. "Millennials want to do meaningful work and be a part of something that will have a positive impact on the world," Goler writes. "We know from our internal data that having real, personal impact at work is part of achieving that meaning." Facebook encourages its newly hired engineers to choose their teams partly based on where they believe they would have the most real, personal effect.

Designing programs for the Millennial workforce

Millennials want to express themselves. It can be easy to call Millennials self-absorbed, but Goler argues that Millennials are authentic, not narcissistic. Snapping a selfie or sharing a status update shows an underlying need for self-expression. "There's nothing wrong with expressing one's true self, both at home and at the office," Goler says—leaders who have a closer work-life integration are often more effective.

Millennials know their strengths. Millennials are more likely to play to their specific strengths, Goler writes, honing in on what they're best at until they are "operating like athletes or musicians at the top of their game." If their position doesn't suit their strengths, Millennials are likely to move on quickly.  

At Facebook, Goler's team works to build new roles for people, instead of "force-fitting them into preexisting ones," to ensure people can continue to thrive in roles tailored to their skills.

Millennials want to learn. Millennials crave opportunities to grow and learn, Goler writes. "They want real-time feedback, ongoing coaching, and stretch development opportunities sooner and more frequently than traditional corporate cultures provide," she says. Facebook focuses on continuous growth, all the way up to the top—such as when CEO Mark Zuckerberg began to work on his public speaking skills in response to internal feedback.

Millennials take the initiative. Millennials "don't wait for a seat at the table," Goler writes, and that can be a shakeup from the traditional corporate hierarchy. Goler references the popular "rainbow-filter" feature that allowed Facebook members to change their profile picture to publically show their support for the Supreme Court's same-sex marriage ruling earlier this year. It was "the brainchild of two interns," she says, who had "not been asked or assigned to create it ... they saw an opportunity and ran with it" (Goler, Harvard Business Review, 12/16/15).

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