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How Millennials Are Driving Big Change for Small Companies

Feature Article | February 22, 2017 by Greg Petraetis

When it comes to adaptability, small and midsize businesses have the big guys beat. Their size, agility, and digital-first approach allow them to respond quickly to current trends.

Nowhere is this more evident than at the intersection of human resources and generational diversity.

Millennials will represent 50 percent of the global workforce by 2020 and 75 percent by 2030. That means HR is going to have to change. This was an important trend that three other executives and I unanimously agreed on during a recent virtual panel, “The Next Two Years: The Latest Political, Economic, Technological & Management Trends That Will Dominate Your Business,” hosted by renowned thought leader in the growing business space Gene Marks.

Talent Acquisition: Experience Over Process

For small and midsize companies, it’s all about the people. Smaller workforces mean they need to ensure they’re hiring and retaining the best talent. Casting a wider net is key, but so is creativity with recruiting and onboarding programs.

While virtual reality can be a useful recruitment tool, millennials don’t just want gimmicks. They want an experience that draws them into a company with touchpoints across channels. Companies that don’t meet millennials where they live, on mobile and social, and then engage them emotionally, simply won’t attract this pool of talent. Onboarding, too, needs to be social, intuitive, and impactful, with buddy programs, pre-training, and early outreach to new hires.

R.I.P. Annual Performance Reviews

The annual performance review is dying. Continuous models better reflect the dynamic circumstances in which we operate, and, conveniently, align with the millennial worker’s desire for transparency and real-time feedback.

By far the greatest cost for small and midsize companies is people. Recruiting, hiring, and retaining—not to mention fattening total rewards packages. Integrative, cloud-based human capital management tools like SAP SuccessFactors enable smaller companies to easily adopt continuous employee review and, most importantly, maximize the efficacy of their workforce.

When employee attrition is the only thing preventing a growing business from scaling — the ultimate goal for most — real-time performance measurement becomes critical.

Getting Flatter and More Balanced

In today’s workplace, it’s not uncommon to find millennial employees getting casual with upper management. This flatter communication environment is one of the great benefits of having a smaller office and fewer employees. As we see with performance reviews, communication is ultimately a good thing. Better communication breeds employee empowerment and better alignment, which, when paired with a small or midsize business’s relatively limited bureaucracy, breeds rapid execution—all things coveted by the millennial workforce.

Millennials are pushing new, experience-driven modes of engagement at all levels of business, and smaller companies are pioneering in this space.

Greg Petraetis is chief operating officer of Midmarket and Partner Ecosystem at SAP

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