Human Resources


The entry of the millennial generation into the workforce is changing the way companies recruit and retain employees. Ten years ago, employers sought new candidates mainly through job fairs and postings in local newspapers and on college notice boards. Today, however, much of that search is carried out via social media, online applications. Readily available reviews and information via the Internet and social media platforms on potential employers and employees give job-seekers and recruiters alike a leg up in their respective pursuits.  


The changes that this new generation is bringing to the human resources industry and the workplace go far beyond the use of technology in hiring talent. In a marketplace where talent can be found locally and globally, human resources executives say employers will be forced to revisit their policies and practices with respect to recruitment, compensation and benefits as they look to attract a workforce that is more diverse, not only in ethnicity and sexual orientation but also in age. HR experts suggest that the demands of millennials, midcareer professionals and baby boomers will overlap in three distinct areas: compensation, education and benefits. 


The new diversity

Millennials, also known as Generation Y — those born between the early 1980s and 2000 — form part of a generation that is more culturally and socially diverse than its predecessors. While women and minorities continue to make strides in the workplace, thanks to affirmative action efforts that began in the 1960s, the LGBT community that is now more assertive is also changing the culture of the workplace. Revisiting benefits that employers offer to attract candidates is one such change. If companies want to hire a more diverse workforce as the country marches toward a majority minority population, they will have to show what their record is when it comes to diversity and inclusion, experts contend. 


“When you are advertising for jobs, you have to be inclusive and show what opportunities you offer to women and minorities,” says David Hanley, owner of First Step HR Associates, a New Jersey-based firm that offers human resources services to small businesses and corporations. Hanley also is the president of the Greater New York Chapter of the National Association of African Americans in Human Resources.


In 2012, the Society for Human Resource Management asked HR professionals what they thought would be the three biggest challenges over the next 10 years in their organization. In response, only 11 percent cited breaking down cultural barriers that make it difficult to create a truly global company, down from the 24 percent who said the same in 2010. The society also polled the HR professionals about creating a corporate culture that would attract the best employees to their organization. In 2012, about 36 percent saw it as one of the biggest challenges compared to 41 percent in 2010 — a testimony to how quickly attitudes are changing in the workplace.


“Millennials already represent almost three-quarters of the workforce and they do not understand the traditional role of diversity and inclusion in an organization as one of balancing the heterogeneity of genetic and cultural characteristics and ensuring that all are equally included in the cultural fabric of the enterprise,” Bettina Deynes, vice president of human resources and diversity at the Society for Human Resource Management, said in an interview with The Network Journal. Instead, Deynes said, “This generation is much more likely to view diversity and inclusion as the establishment of a working environment with foundations in collaborative values that emphasize different experiences, ideas, perspectives, personalities and behaviors.” 


Even as the workplace becomes more diverse, the fight against biases remains one of the most stubborn challenges. “First, we have to recognize that as human beings we all have biases,” says Shirley Davis, Ph.D., a global workforce and talent management expert. “The key is to recognize them and not let them get in the way of who gets a promotion, the nice assignment or the great performance review.”


The best way to fight biases is to be around people who are different from you and to avoid being the only one to make the decision about who is hired, promoted or rejected, Davis says. “As companies hire people from different cultures, you are looking at understanding cultural traditions that will differ from your office in San Francisco to your office in Asia.”  


Technology as a tool for employers and employees 

With websites like and, job-seekers can access company reviews, its history and its practices with respect to diversity and inclusion initiatives, thereby giving prospective employees insight into the culture of the company. At the same time, technology allows recruiters to search for, investigate and reject candidates based on their public, personal and professional digital footprints. For a generation sometimes described as “digital natives,” this can pose a challenge. “The availability of data on the Web on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, etc., as well as professional sites, creates vulnerability for people who do not have a polished Web presence,” says Carolyn Broderick, a senior consultant with DeFoe Associates LLC and vice president of technology at the Society for Human Resource Management. “There is too much data that can be used for prejudging candidates. Millennials have large social media footprints and I believe they have a harder time cleaning their online images due to the amount of content that is out there.”  


Experts agree that while it is illegal for companies to ask about your personal life, information available in social media may affect your career. “I coach people to have a personal side that is also professional,” says Davis. “If you do not want people to be appalled, have a social media presence with a level of professionalism, or find a way to hide it. Once you see something about a person it can’t be unseen. You have to think about that.”


With sites like, and LinkedIn, the number of applicants applying for jobs has quadrupled, making it even harder for one résumé to stand above the rest. For that reason, HR executives rely on customer relationship software to manage their prospects, and use algorithms that look for exact matches, particularly when targeting a segment of the population that is not willing to sit at a desktop for one hour to complete a job application. “Technology enhances and runs the recruiting process,” Broderick says. “But networking and making connections are still relevant.” 


Perks of the job 

Technology is just one of a number of social and cultural changes over the last 10 years — particularly for women, minorities and the LGBT community — that are transforming how companies attract and retain employees. “The three areas to pay attention to are education, compensation and benefits. Both baby boomers and millennials will want companies with a good work-life balance, benefits that support all lifestyles, and opportunities for professional development,” Hanley asserts. 


Paying attention to education means providing opportunities for midcareer and seasoned professionals to gain new skills and stay abreast of new innovations in their industries, Hanley says. Compen-sation and benefits, however, are issues that will affect new hires in different ways. “Millennials have yet to develop their loyalties to companies as they begin their professional path, so they will be looking to change companies that offer the life-work balance they desire, as well as financial compensation, whereas midcareer professionals and baby boomers will look at opportunities to further their education, attractive 401(k) and benefits packages.” Hanley explains. 


Midcareer professionals and baby boomers are just as interested in exploring new career opportunities, as are millennials because they know they have the experience and the tech skills to continue to thrive, Hanley adds. Unlike millennials, however, in doing so they will seek out offers that will enhance the benefit perks they already have, he notes.


The successful HR manager or executive will be the one who establishes a recruit-hire-retain strategy that responds well enough to the concerns of these different talent pools to attract them to his or her organization