Alternative Investment

Recruit millennial oomph

October is a time to think and convince. It is a time to have an impact. It is a time to be bold and audacious. It is a time to inject some oomph into your business.

How is this related to alternative investments? I am taking the word alternative to a different dimension – organisational and cultural. I am giving the word investment a new angle, a leadership perspective. I am asking: how can you invest in your own company?

Investing in women (see my previous article) seemed to be much more foreign to you than investing in vintage cars – an article that made Global Corporate Venturing’s most read list. So what about investing in your future and the future of your company?

Jack Welch, GE’s chief executive from 1981 to 2001, would say: “Keep you organisation engaged, keep it moving, never let your people rest.” Disrupt them, push them out of their comfort zone, make them adjust. An easy way to do it is with graduates. Commit to hiring a certain number of graduates every year and you will inject energy, disruption and innovation into your organisation, because young graduates are plugged into the reality of today’s world and represent future markets. They are the future consumers and know what they want and how they think.

Because they are new to the workforce and do not have a strong frame of reference, they can force your organisation to snap out of complacency. Through questioning, they will help you reassess why you are doing things the way you do and look for improvement.

If you are a French-speaking leader you can refer to French philosopher and Stanford professor Michel Serres’ book Petite Poucette that depicts a new cultural and organisational paradigm in which the “millennials” – those coming of age in the new millennium – are reinventing the way the world thinks, learns, creates value and interacts. Any business has an imperative to jump on to this bandwagon.

Adjust or die – but this can only ring true if you are truly committing to spening quality time with them. I am not only talking about the fancy high-flyer grad programme, where you move them from one part of the organisation to the other. I am talking about full-blast personal involvement in learning from them.

How do you do that? Do your homework. Hiring a young graduate is like creating a business plan – data gathering is essential. So is competitive analysis.

Invest time and put together a list of relevant universities and courses that would make the most sense for your company.

It can be from an industry perspective or to address most pressing challenges.You can also decide to be more edgy and look for people who are not a natural fit. Why? because they will have a different take and perception on what you are planning to do. Finance graduates could help you challenge the pricing structure. Art graduates could come up with visually strong ideas. All these could help to build a competitive advantage.

Knowing your audience is key. Current young graduates – all millennials – display specific characteristics.

Millenials love diversity – make it clear every graduate will spend time in different parts of the organisation, not different roles in the same function. Move them from one department to another – marketing to research and development.

You will develop a more inclusive culture and create the conditions for innovation.

Millenials crave attention and role models. Advertise that every graduate will mentor and be mentored by a senior executive. You will gain commitment and benefit from regularly picking their brains. An hour every week or fortnight can do the trick. Question them. Ask for their opinion on what you are doing or of the world in general. You will get mind-blowing perspectives from a generation that did not learn from a page but from a screen. I would also suggest presenting them to customers or to executive meetings to help bridge the old world and the new.

Millenials want to develop their own things. Every graduate should have the opportunity to work on his or her own personal project – you can decide if it would be within or outside the remit of the company, either looking for outsourced innovation or planting the seeds for angel or corporate investing opportunities’. In any case you will get valuable insights into how they see problems, and maybe even reap sustainable new business ideas or models.

Go global, recruiting young graduates from emerging economies. Cognitive diversity, cultural diversity, and business diversity are the names of the game. If you do a good job, you will have them talking about your company on their social network, and no doubt in a couple of years you will be cherrypicking the top of the crop while your strategic plan will be addressed with fresh and current ideas.

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