Millennials: How to Understand, Attract & Harness Their Unique Abilities
Growth & Development Expert Blake Cavignac on making the most of Generation Y

Millennials. Everyone has an opinion on them, and many of those opinions aren’t favorable. But are millennials just getting an unfairly bad rap? Where are the lines dividing assumption, opinion and fact to be drawn? As you attempt to make a decision, consider the following statistics from an analysis of United States Census Bureau data by Pew Research Center:

  • The American labor force is 35-percent millennial—making millennials the largest working generation currently.
  • The millennial population is the largest living adult generation in the U. S. and is expected to continue growing until 2036 as a result of immigration. 
  • Millennials have more outstanding student debt than earlier generations, and the amount they owe tends to be greater. (The median amount of debt is nearly 50 percent greater for millennials than for Generation X debtholders when they were approximately the same age.)
  • Thirty-nine percent of millennials ages 25 to 37 hold at least a bachelor’s degree, but the Great Recession made it particularly challenging for them to enter the workforce, thus negatively impacting their potential future earnings and wealth.
  • Millennial workers are just as likely to remain at their job as Generation X workers were when they were the same age. (In 2018, 79 percent of millennials ages 22 to 37, and 77 percent of Gen Xers who were the same age in 2002, reported working for their current employer at least 13 months.)

Still unsure how you feel about this generation? Blake Cavignac isn’t.

Impressed with his work as founder and leader of YoungPro Elite (YPE)—a program focused on helping young professionals develop and grow their careers—Cavignac & Associates, a risk management and insurance brokerage firm, recruited him to be its growth and development advisor to “guide the company in identifying natural leaders, tailoring training programs, building the right company culture, and managing millennials in the manner it desires.”

Find Cavignac’s take on his new role and the issues that lead to its creation below.

CBO: What inspired you to work with college students and young professionals?

BC: Many young college graduates aren’t sure what they want to do in their careers. Further, the skills required to excel in the professional environment aren’t the primary focus in a traditional educational system. Many students graduate with a significant amount of debt.

So, here we have a generation of people who are heavily investing in their education, and yet, when they graduate, they are not equipped, nor are they in a position, to succeed early in their careers.

CBO: Can you fill us in on your background and your company, YoungPro Elite?

BC: My background working with young professionals started with two roles in college. The first was being president of a 150-man fraternity. The second was working for a commercial real estate investment company. Both jobs involved working in leadership roles that set me on a path to working with millennials.

After graduating, I became the chief operating officer of the company I worked for while in college. This role included recruiting young professionals to join the company and then taking a key interest in their development.

From there, I became president of Intellectual Innovations, a company that creates intellectual property (training programs, seminars, books, etc.) for executives. These executives would tell me they just couldn’t figure out the millennial generation. They didn’t understand the ways in which millennials operated, and were having a difficult time attracting, developing and retaining the generation. Given my background, and my being a millennial myself, I was asked to build training programs.

That’s how YPE got its start. YPE’s focus is on providing young professionals with development programs and peer advisory groups to ensure they excel early on in their careers. Organizations invite us to deliver keynotes and workshops to executives; the focus of which is to help companies more effectively recruit, develop and retain millennial workers.

CBO: What will your role as Cavignac & Associates’ growth and development advisor look like?

BC: Cavignac & Associates aims to operate as an independent insurance agency in the future, and to do so, the company must double in size and triple its revenue. Effectively recruiting, developing and retaining young professionals—all of which I will be responsible for leading—will be vital to achieving this growth.

For each of these areas, we’ll be building custom-tailored programs to fit the needs of the firm. Then, we will be offering similar programming to the company’s clients and prospects.

For recruitment, we have specific programs designed to attract millennials for every position within our agency. These programs are quite intensive, but we have structured them in a way that is simple to execute. We are already starting to see significant results and are expanding our current onboarding program.


Typically, onboarding programs last a few weeks up to a few months, but our program will last the entire first year of employment and cover every aspect of the company, including (but not limited to) the 10-year vision, company values and standards, the roles and responsibilities of different divisions within the company, relationship development with the team, the roles and responsibilities of specific positions, our leadership team, our systems and standards of procedure, and how we impact the future growth and success of our clients’ businesses.

For development, we’ll be creating training programs that cover a variety of topics like sales, leadership, communication and presentation skills, personal branding, adverse management, personal finances, customer service and career development. We have found (and studies have proven) that delivering 1- to 5-day workshops deliver minimal results—which is why we’ve built a program model that spans 6 to 12 months.

Those involved in the program go through a customized curriculum that is delivered online, and they meet two to four times a month in person.

Effectively retaining millennials starts with executing the aforementioned programs. If you attract the millennials that fit within your culture and provide them with the resources to develop and excel, you will be very successful when it comes to retention.

In addition, Cavignac & Associates is incorporating a number of other attractive benefits, such as more opportunities to take on positions of leadership early in their careers, whether that is through us allowing them to lead company committees or by giving them the support needed to jump-start initiatives that will help the company realize its 10-year vision.


CBO: What are the secrets to attracting and retaining millennials?

BC: I don’t know if there are any secrets. However, I do think there is a misunderstanding about what millennials want. Many “experts” claim the secret is in creating a fun environment—one with pingpong tables, beanbag chairs, free food, nap pods, etc.

Maybe they are correct. Maybe these perks do attract and retain a certain type of millennial. But they’re usually not the high-performing millennials that most companies desire and need. If a company attracts through these tactics, they will likely end up with an employee who values comfort over a challenge (e.g., an employee who values immediate and materialistic satisfaction over everything else).

Of course, this is an assumption. It won’t be true of every millennial who’s attracted to a company because of these perks. However, I’ve seen this be the case far more times than not, as this type of recruitment tactic tends to attract what many have defined as the stereotypical millennial (lazy, entitled, selfish and so on).

CBO: So, what’s the solution? What are the dos and don’ts?

BC: I’ve found that the dos come down to addressing three desires throughout the entirety of the recruitment and retention process—clarity, growth and contribution. By understanding and creating ways to leverage these desires, a company can take one of the greatest challenges facing the industry and turn it into an advantage. Specifically, millennials want to know:

  • Vision—The shared purpose of the company and how it impacts the greater good
  • Roles and responsibilities—How their efforts will make a positive impact on the clients, the community they’ll be serving and the industry as whole
  • Values and standards—What the company stands for and how the company can help them grow, both personally and professionally

To understand the importance of growth, it may be worthwhile to think about the times in your own career when you felt the most fulfilled. During that time, there was probably some form of development or advancement taking place. Millennials are no different. They are looking for ways to continue to learn, and crave opportunities to grow and develop.

So, companies must express how new hires will supported and given opportunities to participate in mentorship and training programs. Then, the company must effectively and diligently execute these programs once millennials have been onboarded.

The third desire is contribution. High-performing millennials want to feel like they’re making a positive impact. This comes down to a fundamental need that most want to experience: feeling significant. The good news is that when clarity and growth are successfully addressed, the immediate result is contribution.

Clarity provides vision and purpose. Helping millennials see how they’ll be able to contribute and showing them how they’ll be supported gives them confidence in their growth potential within the company, leading them to even greater levels of contribution.

CBO: What advice would you give to companies looking to better handle both the influx of millennial workers and the aging out of Baby Boomers?

BC: There is a misconception about all millennials being the same. For example, many articles and videos state that millennials are entitled, lazy and only look out for their own best interests. Yet, I know members in other generations who fit this mold perfectly.

I also know many millennials who defy the stereotype; they’re hardworking, humble and always looking out for others. That being said, the companies that will excel in attracting and retaining millennials will be the ones that don’t continually stereotype the entire generation.

Successful companies view every millennial as his/her own person, focusing on their strengths and how they will make positive contributions to the organization. From my experience, the majority of millennials are looking for guidance in their careers, while baby boomers seem eager to share their knowledge and experience.

The more opportunities a company can create for mentorship, the more success they will have with the influx of millennials and the aging out of boomers. If companies create alternative ways to transfer the knowledge of the older generations to the younger generations, the more effective they will be when it comes to perpetuation and bridging the generational gap.

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