The Modern HR Department

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The Modern HR Department

The American workforce is experiencing one of the largest demographic changes in its history. As the baby-boomers continue to retire at a quickening pace, millennials have become the largest share of employees in the work place. Such a change in demographics requires changes in managerial style. This piece details the altered priorities of the new generation of employees and ways to ensure your HR department stays ahead of the demographic curve.

Understanding Generational Differences

There are several differences in priorities between millennials and the generations that raised them. Among the most striking is the higher need for reinforcement in the work place. More so than other generations in the work force, this group is interested in thoughtful feedback to be sure that they are doing well. Millennials are less interested in financial reward than other generations; in fact, they seem to prefer a work-life balance that gives them the liberty for other pursuits.1 However, they seem to possess a strong interest in moving up the career ladder quickly—often more quickly than preferred by their managers.2 Coupled with these values is a keen interest in continuous learning.

Millennials prefer a work-life balance that gives them the liberty for other pursuits.

Making Appropriate Changes

Effective modern HR leaders consider these unique millennial attributes and work to effect changes that accommodate them. If such changes are implemented well, employers may see higher returns from this group than expected. The first step to improving your odds with millennials is to attract them the right way—in other words, by demonstrating how your company meets their needs. If your company has great upward mobility, provide examples of employees who have moved up the chain of command. Be sure also to show that you care about their development by highlighting policies that result in better coaching of new talent. Consider chances to articulate how the company is serving the greater good. Perhaps more than any other generation, millennials tend to take an interest in the positive effects that today’s companies are having on society.3

Empowering Millennials

Once you have recruited a team of millennials, it is time to consider how best to develop and manage them. The first step is pinpointing professional weaknesses you find in millennial hires. An example is having them understand the role of senior leadership. Many millenials enjoy teamwork but are wary of decisions coming from executives and other senior members of the company. As such, training should teach them of the hierarchy of the company.

HR departments should focus on bridging generational divides in the company.

HR departments should also focus on bridging generational divides since there will be projects the two groups will work on together. Some other steps include requiring teams to represent the diversity of the office, educating about workforce standards, and developing mutual mentorship programs where employees of different generations teach each other skills. It is important that you set clear standards for the company while acquiring new talent. Millennials, while often driven, may not immediately recognize the culture of your company. Take time to ensure they fit well into the company before committing to them for the long haul.


While investment in the millennial workforce will be time consuming, the HR department will experience numerous benefits from this exercise. First is lower employee turnover. In addition, increasing company empathy for millennials will allow them to think about your business as a long-term employer. Further, and perhaps most importantly, by being empathetic and focusing on employee engagement, the company will likely experience a positive feedback loop where your reputation of developing millennials will result in more of them wanting to work for you.