Millennials: Know How to Hold ‘Em

As the future workforce they will have all the cards.

By Ivan Seselj


Businesses everywhere are looking for ways to appeal to millennials – the 54 million American adults between the ages of 18 and 34 who will soon comprise a majority of the U.S. workforce. But while most businesses readily acknowledge the need to attract the buying power these millennial customers represent, many are not sure how to appeal to this mobile, tech-savvy generation to fill their workforce needs.

Recognizing that the banking workforce is aging and that the industry isn’t training the next generation of bankers in the same way as it previously did, banks understand that millennials represent their future. Still, many banks have shown a reluctance to hire millennials, fearing they won’t fit banking’s conservative culture, as well as their tendency to rebel against traditional environments.

To some extent, that characterization has validity. Millennials as a group do tend to question how and why certain tasks are performed the way they are, rather than simply accepting “that’s the way we’ve always done it.” They do tend to push back against authority and resist “paying their dues.” They are focused on salary and career advancement. In short, millennials as a group tend to be high-maintenance.

Nevertheless, banks can’t afford to ignore millennials. Like it or not, millennials represent the workforce of the future. Beyond that, millennials bring energy, new ideas and a willingness to innovate banking needs if the industry is to prosper in the digital age. The onus is on banks to position banking as an environment in which millennials can not only work and grow, but innovate and make a difference.

To do that effectively, banks must begin by recognizing millennials don’t like to see themselves as working for you, instead they work with you. While millennials are sometimes criticized for asking too many questions and challenging accepted processes, banks need to understand that the pushback they sometimes receive from millennial workers is simply their way of wanting to have a say in what’s happening on the job.

Millennials want to question, challenge and be heard now. As a result, they have the potential to be a great source of innovation and suggestions for improving the way banks deliver services to their customers. Smarts banks can capture the energy and enthusiasm at the core of that attitude by embracing the innovative instincts millennial workers exhibit and channeling it to transform products, processes and services.

It’s equally important for banks to understand that the means for communicating with millennial employees is in many ways just as important as the communications themselves. Millennials simply don’t respond to traditional mechanisms such as procedure manuals, signage posted around the branch or in the lunchroom or mass emails. And they can sometimes bristle at being asked to do the little things more senior employees typically take for granted – filling out expense reimbursement forms, attending in-person training sessions and so on.

By making an investment in technology, banks can appeal to the ethos of tech-savvy millennials, while simultaneously accomplishing routine tasks and reducing the administrative time and potential for human error such activities require. Enable millennials to click through a series of options to see how to do things instead of expecting them to read six chapters of a procedure manual. Let them rely on their smartphones, tablets and web apps at work in the same way they do for other aspects of their lives. Embracing technology in this way will go a long way toward connecting with, retaining and engaging millennial employees.

Banks also need to invest in the millennials themselves. They must recognize, however, that the compensation strategies that have been used to attract top employees in the past may not work on millennials. For example, millennials are far more likely to be interested in paying off their college debts than receiving an enticing retirement plan.

Similarly, while millennials tend to be more focused than previous generations on compensation and career advancement, money alone won’t be enough. They want something more – to constantly grow, to tackle new challenges and new opportunities, and perhaps most importantly, to be a part of something they regard as meaningful. Banks should seek their opinions as to how to improve the way a specific job or process is completed, and then show a willingness to make some of the changes they recommend.

Even if work assignments are relatively simple, banks should emphasize how the contribution is making a difference, not just to the organization’s growth but also to the organization’s pursuit of excellence and innovation. Because community banks are focused on helping their local communities to prosper, they may be particularly well-positioned to attract millennials who are looking to make a difference.


Ivan Seselj is CEO of Promapp Solutions, a provider of cloud-based process management software for creating and managing business processes online. Contact him at


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