They say a week is a long time in politics – so what does that make five years in HR? Let’s face it, HR has had to deal with a lot: the advent of big data, people analytics, changing workforces and work styles, evolving talent engagement strategies – and more recently the B word – yes our shock exit from the EU.

Having launched back in 2011, we’ve lived through these changes and we’ve stood alongside HR professionals and organisations as they tackle these head on. However, in this time there’s one aspect of the function that has remained a challenge: attracting and managing millennials.

This generation of more flexible, CSR-conscious and innovative-driven workers will, according to PwC make up half of the global workforce by 2020, but it would seem that very few of us are ready for this new employee profile. In fact, in a recent survey of our clients, we found that less than half of HR Directors feel that their organisation’s talent strategy is millennial ready.

And while part of being millennial ready involves having a more agile approach to work patterns, such as home or flexible working, over a third of respondents to our survey saw no value in adopting such an approach. With disruptive alternative working models coming to the market such as Ziferblat – shared working spaces which charge by the minute with a capped day rate – agile working is obviously a growing phenomenon.

Another trait of this generation of employee is their more relaxed approach to formal dress codes. It’s now incredibly common to walk into an office environment and see staff in more casual wear – the traditional work suit looks set for extinction if millennials and the generation that follows them continue this pattern! However, despite this mindset, only a third of organisations we surveyed had adopted a more informal approach to personal appearance.

Part of attracting and retaining millennials is how your talent strategy focuses on organisational values and ethics. There is no doubt that competition for the best talent remains intense– and so those organisations that are not adapting their talent strategies to appeal to this group risk not only losing out on the best people – but also severely damaging their employer brand. Future leadership teams are quite simply going to look very different as millennials progress through an organisation and talent strategies need to evolve rapidly in order to appeal to what is a very different mind-set.

On a more positive note, however, over two thirds (68%) of respondents said that social media played an important part in their organisation’s talent attraction strategy. This signals a realisation that millennials use newer channels when looking for opportunities such as Glassdoor to check out employee ratings and corporate Instagram accounts to get a sense of the organisation’s goals, values and corporate culture. Even Snapchat has now become an employer branding tool as it allows potential talent to see what really goes on behind the scenes of companies they may be interested in.

However, I have to add that it’s all very well knowing where to look for these people, but if there is a disconnect  between what millennials want and what your talent management strategy delivers, then arguably all your attraction efforts could be a waste of time. Understanding what motivates and inspires this future talent is really important and often that’s around a commitment to flexibility and work-life balance; a recognition that reward isn’t just about pay; a demonstration of social value and access to varied opportunities. And in an era where organisations could feasibly be looking at five different generations in the workforce, having a strategic people plan that addresses different generational needs and wants is a business priority that could spell the success – or even demise – of a company.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this – is your talent strategy millennial ready? Share your experiences below.

Sarah Barwell is Director of The Three Partnership 

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