As discussed in the new innovation book Robert’s Rules of Innovation II: The Art of Implementation, one of the biggest reasons why the actual implementation of innovation can become such a formidable if not insurmountable process is because of people-related issues. A key element to successfully implementing innovation is finding and keeping the right people. While it goes without saying that financial capital is critical for innovation implementation, it’s not the organization that has the most money but rather the organization that best utilizes its human capital that will have the best shot at “winning” the innovation race. Ten years from now, Millennials are projected to make up around 75 percent of the global workforce.[1] The Millennial Generation represents the future of your business; accordingly, recruiting and retaining top Millennial talent must be an organizational priority.

Talkin’ ‘bout my generation: Who are the Millennials?

Millennials (also known as the Millennial Generation, Generation Y, Gen Y and sometimes derogatively referred to as the Selfie Generation or Generation I/Me) are the demographic cohort that falls in between Generation X and Generation Z. While there are no set-in-stone, precise dates for when the Millennial Generation begins and ends, researchers generally use the early 1980s as the beginning birth years and the early 2000s as the ending birth years for inclusion in the Millennial Generation. However, the Pew Research Center specifically delineates Millennials as people ages 18-34 in 2015.[2] After tabulating the recently released U.S. Census population estimates, the Pew Research Center stated in a April 2016 article that Millennials (who now number at 75.4 million) have surpassed the Baby Boomers (people ages 51-69 in 2015, who now number at 74.9 million) as this country’s largest living generation.[3]

As mentioned earlier, Millennials are projected to make up around 75 percent of the global workforce by 2025.[4] Now that’s a staggering statistic! So love ‘em or hate ‘em, they are coming. This demographic shift in the workplace is an absolute game changer and “companies that do not take this transformation into consideration and begin to reinvent themselves will hit serious speed bumps before long.”[5]

For your business to get ahead and stay ahead, you will have to be successful at recruiting and retaining the best Millennial talent. Here are some tips to help accomplish this goal:

  • Change is required. Maintaining the status quo and doing things the way they were always done (because that’s company tradition; or that’s how it was done when you were a new-hire) is not going to cut it. To compete for the best Millennial talent, organizations will have to change. Look at Goldman Sachs as an example. At the majority of the premier investment banks and financial institutions—the white-shoe titans of Wall Street—it has always been part of company culture and Wall Street traditions that the newbies work around-the-clock, seven days a week, often pulling all-nighters or even double all-nighters, sometimes only returning home to quickly shower and change clothes. While this grueling schedule was a deeply ingrained part of Goldman’s organizational culture and essentially considered a rite of passage, in the past few years, Goldman as well as other companies have announced programs to improve their junior associates’ work environment by having them work less and improving their work-life balance. To keep these top Millennials from bolting to greener pastures (a.k.a., going to work for a start-up), they’ve had to dangle carrots such as a faster promotion path, work-life balance initiatives (i.e., no working on Saturdays, no new projects assigned on Fridays, and mandatory vacation time-off), assign less of the typical newbie grunt work, and convening town-hall style meeting to address their junior bankers grievances and suggestions.[6]
  • Corporate culture must be compatible with what Millennials value most in a business and in their future workplace. According to Deloitte’s 2013 Millennial Survey, which surveyed nearly 5,000 Millennials from 18 different countries, “78 percent of the world’s future business leaders believe innovation is essential for business growth.”[7] “Innovation at the institutional level is needed to sufficiently shift an organization’s mindset to allow new ideas to truly emerge and thrive,” said Deloitte Global CEO Barry Salzberg. “While our current business leaders can debate how and where to innovate, it’s clear how much importance our future leaders place on innovation—not just as a driver of business growth but also as a catalyst for solving society’s most pressing problems.”[8]
  • Offering a better work-life balance is not always enough to recruit and retain the top Millennials. We’ve seen top talent at companies like Goldman Sachs lose their top Millennial talent to start-up companies despite the fact that start-ups typically offer the same long hours but for less pay and less stability. This suggests that simply providing more time off and a better work-life balance is not enough for recruiting and retaining top Millennial talent. Millennials are willing to work hard, but they want to work hard for a business that has an innovation-friendly environment where they feel they can contribute and make their mark. As discussed in Robert’s Rules of Innovation II, “Organizations that foster a culture of innovation will outhustle their competition in retaining tomorrow’s top talent and create the next game-changing innovations.”[9] Moreover, “if corporate cultures don’t align with the transparency, free flow of information, and inclusiveness that millennials highly value—and that are also essential for learning and successful innovation—the competitiveness of many established business will suffer.”[10]
  • Offer freedom. Instead of the old-school “command and control” model, talented Millennials will be attracted to companies that offer them more freedom to choose projects that interest them and do what they love as well as more autonomy to experiment and make decisions.[11]
  • Offer frequent feedback. Millennials typically desire more frequent feedback and reassurance than older generations in the workplace. However, most Millennials feel that they are more than just a number and as such, dislike quantitative performance reviews where their performance is gauged on a numerical scale (i.e., a 1 to 5 scale where a rating of “3” would mean “average performance”). Instead, offer Millennials more qualitative feedback and replace or supplement the annual review with more frequent reviews such as quarterly or even monthly reviews and also offer on-the-spot feedback when appropriate.[12]
  • Create a millennial-friendly workplace that proactively tries to prevent or mitigate intergenerational conflicts. The two demographic groups that typically have the hardest time working together are Millennials and Baby Boomers. For a discussion of introductory tips for patching the rift between these two groups, check out the previously published blog entitled “Can’t We All Just Get Along: Innovation and Bridging the Generational Divide.”

For more information about how to promote and implement innovation at your company, check out the innovation books Robert’s Rules of Innovation: A 10-Step Program for Corporate Survival and the recently published Robert’s Rules of Innovation II: The Art of Implementation.

[1] Robert’s Rules of Innovation II: The Art of Implementation (See p. 157)



[4] Robert’s Rules of Innovation II: The Art of Implementation (See p. 157)

[5] Robert’s Rules of Innovation II: The Art of Implementation (See p. 158)




[9] Robert’s Rules of Innovation II: The Art of Implementation (See p. 170)

[10] Robert’s Rules of Innovation II: The Art of Implementation (See p. 170)



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Experienced International Business Executive Managing Global Innovation and Management Teams delivering Profitable Growth. Successful Serial Entrepreneur and Innovation Practitioner for over 25 years in both large and small start-up environments. Author of "Robert's Rules of Innovation" (2010) , and "RROI II: The Art of Implementation" (2015) Speaker and Workshop facilitator Specialties: Innovation, Business Develpment and International management