Human Resources

Secrets of Retaining Top-Performing Millennials

Retaining the Millennials

Written By: James Aiken


Common “Solutions” to Retaining Millennials:
– Increase compensation
– Give them newer tech (cell, laptop, etc.)
– Let them work remotely
– Tuition reimbursement & training opportunities
– Increase company social events
– Avoid requiring overtime

Retaining your employees is one of the most crucial aspects of leadership. There’s a lot of different options on how to address chronic millennial turnover in a certain position. We have come to realize that all of the above solutions are actually just added bonuses. They’re often like a band-aid over the issue. A manager shouldn’t focus on implementing one of these as a solution until making some other changes first. Often times, turnover isn’t an operations problem, it’s a recruiting problem. In the building materials industry, there has never been as much need for focus on retention.

Creating Workforce Inertia – Pairing Common Goals

A manager can lower their turnover by understanding who they are recruiting past their objective skills. Dive into the DNA. Often times managers will get caught up in technicalities, which is so easy to do. The technical aspects of a candidate are certainly important. However, an employee shouldn’t just be viewed as “can this candidate do the job?” Managers should consider “how can I create workforce inertia to keep this candidate performing at their best?” There should be a focus on helping them advance their own personal career goals.

Understanding the Future to Motivate the Present

Some managers will complain that they can’t retain someone in a certain position past a year, but they never ask the candidate/employee where they want to be in a year. When a manager recruits for a position, they need to use candor – plain and simple. They need to understand a prospect’s aspirations. Hiring managers need to understand what makes the candidate tick. There’s a need to understand the candidate’s vision for their future.

Our interactions with millennial candidates has concluded that for millennials – its often a matter of them wanting to do more. They want to increase their scope – they want to develop their career. They want to build a legacy. Keep them happy up front by understanding where they want to be. Help carve the path in front of them. If managers want to retain, they need to understand their yearly outlooks (1, 2, 5). These should be kept up with as much as quarterly. Don’t have them answer by a form, ask them face-to-face. Having a candidate or employee answer on a form doesn’t help them feel like you actually care about their future. This will make candidates more apt to stretch the truth on their answers for short term solutions.

Be Frank like Sinatra

On the other hand, managers/interviewers need to be frank with the candidate on what the position entails. If the position is one of those positions where there’s no vertical opportunities, managers/interviewers need to disclose it. Is the person going to be traveling three weeks out of the month? Disclose it! Even if the company vehicle is a PT Cruiser, disclose it. Disclose to the candidate the most difficult parts about the responsibilities and environment. Disclose it up front and save Human Resources the tears, time, and money.

It’s tough to retain millennials. However, with the right level of communication, forecasting, and planning, you’ll be able to cut down on your aspirin bill.


Human Resources

Interview to Understand Aspirations

Peer into the Future to Retain Employees Better

Written By: James Aiken

Depending on the hiring manager, recruiter or human resources department – interviewers may not necessarily have as much time to interview as they wish. I’ve seen interviews that last from thirty minutes to a chain of interviews lasting eight hours. Regardless, interviewers need to make sure to take advantage of the time spent interviewing. More often than not, they ask questions that don’t necessarily give a real understanding of the candidate.

Reading the Future: Crystal Ball Questions

In a previous article, the importance of understanding a candidate’s foreground, or what they understand as their near future (aspirations etc) was put into consideration. Technical questions are absolutely critical in the process. However, time needs to be taken to interview for personality and aspirations. When a hiring manager doesn’t understand a candidate’s aspirations, it makes it much harder on the firm to retain an employee since they don’t know what would actually make them happy!

Interviewing on Past Behavior

Some do not necessarily put a huge deal of weight on the new fad of “behavioral questions” in human resources, although some firms do put a lot of confidence behind these questions. These are often more reactive questions and certainly help hiring managers understand a candidates reactions and past actions. They are also likely to hear the highlights of that candidate’s career versus everyday interactions. In this case, it may not necessarily be the most accurate representation of the candidate. If someone is interviewing to be a fisherman, they’re more likely to tell you about the time that they saved a coworker from going overboard than the time they tossed another fisherman overboard. These are good questions to ask, but the answers should certainly be taken with a grain of salt.

“I’m Best When I’m at My Weakest”

An interviewer could technically flip the questions to make them a negative as in “What are your weaknesses?” but you’re likely to get a less extreme version of Michael Scott’s answer when he said:
“…my greatest weaknesses? I work too hard. I care too much. And sometimes I can be too invested in my job.”
 All the more reason to focus on the candidate’s aspirations and what they see as their future to see if it matches up with the future an interviewer sees in the possible associate.  More importantly, down to the questions:

1. What do you see as the next big step in your career?

This is nearly always the first question a good recruiting firm will ask a prospective candidate. Before speaking about the job opening, the company or details on what the candidate does – a candidate’s aspirations must be addressed. If the opportunity doesn’t match up with what they realistically see as their future, it probably isn’t the best fit. Not to say this is a disqualifier, but you can be assured that the candidate will not be as enthusiastic about the opportunity than someone else who really matches up as far as aspirations go.
In addition, this gives the interviewer or company as a whole a clearer image of the candidate in order to emphasize the parts of the job that do line up with their aspirations

2. If you could change one thing about your current employer, what would it be?

 Associates always have some type of idea or suggestion to make their workplace better. They may be in an environment where there are already so many processes they don’t have an opportunity to implement anything. This question gives an interviewer an inside look at a candidates analytical thinking as well as how well they can put up with not being able to implement/influence a change.

3. Being from a (small/large) company, do you prefer an environment with established processes or an environment with more opportunity to implement processes?

This is an important question to ask due to polarization. Associates from small companies gripe that there aren’t processes in place, that software isn’t sophisticated or that things are inefficient. Associates from large companies gripe that they are being drowned by processes. They mention that there are many things they would like to change, but can’t. On occasion associates believe their employers strategies “can’t see the forest for the trees”.
This gives a hiring manager another opportunity to sell to strengths. Many times, an associate from a large process-oriented firm will be very excited to join a smaller firm if they have the opportunity to implement processes of their own. On the other side of the coin, associates from a smaller more liberally run firm may be excited to join a large firm where they can learn processes, techniques and strategies that they didn’t previously have the opportunity to be a part of.

4. What accomplishment in your current role makes you most proud? 

This may seem like a background-searching question as the setting is in the past, but its actually forward-looking as the interviewer is figuring out what drives pride behind an associates work. An interviewer is greatly benefited by understanding what makes an associate happy with their work, go figure!
The interviewer may also be surprised, as the answers aren’t always profit or process-driven. Occasionally there are answers focusing on healing fragmented teams, improving employee pride or team engagement.

5. If you had to train someone in one of your current work-related skills, which would you be most enthusiastic about?

Teaching is a key factor behind leadership. As Einstein said, “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.” According to my application to Harvard’s Law Department, you can’t teach something you don’t know! In addition, this again explains the passions behind an interviewee’s background in order to more accurately predict their future.

Understand Employees to Better Motivate Them

Some of the most important information to understand about a candidate is what drives them. An interviewer should understand what their passions are, as well as where their pride and enthusiasm lies. When a company can line up the succession plan of their open role with the future aspirations of a current candidate – they will greatly increase their average employee tenure.

Human Resources

Interviewing for Red Flag Identification

Getting the Right Candidate Means Identifying the Wrong Candidate Early

Written By: James Aiken


You have a vacant position. You need to fill it. Yet, you need to fill it with the right candidate. The interviewing process, notwithstanding whether you love it or hate it, is costing you both time and lost productivity due to this gap. However, hiring can go wrong. This article will help you avoid “toxic” candidates and help you source the right talent for your business.

This article will give you a new approach. Don’t waste time on the wrong candidate. Learn to quickly recognize signs of a mismatch so you can focus on the right candidate for your urgent vacancy. The latest academic research along with industry best practice all point towards the centrality of nurturing good talent. However, the converse of this outcome is to quickly move on from talent that doesn’t align with your candidate profile.


It is all about knowing what you want. You should know what the position entails, what the duties are and the responsibilities therein. You need to understand how that role interplays with the wider business. This way you can take small steps towards getting the right candidate first, without being bogged down with candidates that do not match what you’re seeking.

According to Harvard Business Review, in a paper entitled Toxic Workers, the cost associated with hiring the wrong person can exceed $12,489 – excluding litigation and regulatory costs. Furthermore, some academics believe hiring the wrong person can also decrease organisational productivity by creating a negative influencer within the organisation who will counter the wider business goals and objectives through their negative psychology.

There is a dilemma and a conundrum here. Getting the wrong staff member can cost a business a lot of money. However, the metrics and benchmarks used to target the right member of staff can sometimes be gamed by the right ‘negative’ influencer. The research above highlight this reality and as such it is crucial that businesses plan their recruitment processes on the assumption of such negative counter-experiences.


It is crucial that your job advertisement is curated to define the full range of employment and role experiences. This way, the candidate, can be sure the role suits their skills sets and experiences. However, as a business leader, your role is to focus, with laser pointed clarity, at the wider issues.

As a business leader, when looking at candidates, you need to focus on a nuanced reality. All the candidates can do the role – they’ve curated their own resumes in order to highlight this certainty. Therefore, you need to ask yourself whether the candidate should do the role. This is not about employment history or qualifications but about a wider array of intersectional experiences from emotional intelligence markers to outside workplace interests. These diverse metrics can help identify crucial markers. As a leader, you need to be able to understand the team you lead.