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Understanding recruitment: Millennials are driven by purpose. What does this mean for HR?

Christina Petersen

 Understanding recruitment: Millennials are driven by purpose. What does this mean for HR?

The traditional way of thinking of recruitment and retainment is being challenged by changes in the labor market. In the next five years, 45 percent of workers in Europe will be self-employed, either completely or in combination with another job, according to the IDC. According to Gallup, Millennials are the generation who – by far – changes jobs the most. These young workers are driven by purpose. Not economics.

In 2015, Millennials surpassed generation X as the largest generational cohort in the labor force, according to Pew Resarch. In fact, Millennials are now the largest living generation, beating the baby boomers.

According to Gallup, 21 percent of Millennials reported to switch jobs within the past year, compared to only 7 percent of gen X and other non-Millennials. 60 percent of Millennials are currently open to a new job opportunity. This makes them the generation who are by far the most likely to look for other job options.


According to a study by the World Economic Forum, Millennials are driven by purpose over economics. They want to make a difference with their career. They are focused on personal development, they are not attracted by the traditional 9-to-5, or being married to one particular employer. They are attracted by feeling inspired at their work. Understandin recruitment is about understanding these trends.

How does this affect HR?

First and foremost, it has great implications for some of the “core” HR disciplines, such as Employer Branding and recruitment – how to attract talent and incentive structures and Performance Management – how to retain talent. This means that HR is changing. Recruitment is to a greater extent about having access to the best talent, not about owning it, as Millennials are job hoppers. It’s about seeing HR as a sourcing method to gaining access to the very best competencies on a time and project specific basis. Read more about this trend in this blogpost – Agile HR.

Secondly, it means that HR professionals need to think differently about how they attract these fluid workers and how they manage their performance. According to
Harvard Business Review, understanding recruitment is really all about building satisfaction, engagement, and inspiration for their workers.

Retention will come from purpose, not from economics. Proactive and business oriented HR professionals must take this into consideration when building the incentive programmes for the organization in the future. In some companies, employee reward programs are solely focused on economics. The norm is to provide the employees with a great bonus once a year, hoping that this fuels greater productivity, loyalty, and overall happiness. Unfortunately, this can have the effect of decreasing engagement by turning everything into a quid pro quo, according to
Harvard Business Review.

On the contrary, employees who feel like their work makes a different in the world are more likely to feel fulfilled and promote their company to others, according to Harvard Business Review. Their studies have shown that engaged employees are almost three times more productive than those who are dissatisfied. Just imagine if you could triple your current staffs productivity, just by making them more engaged.

If people are faced with irrelevant meetings, tiring approval processes, and micro-management, they are likely to be dissatisfied, less engaged, and less inspired – despite the bonuses ahead. Understanding recruitment is about understanding people.

Where we work, with whom we work, and how we work are as important in defining our workplace experience, as the formal processes that define the work’s content.

  • Where we work: A study from Steelcase shows that employees who have control over where and how they work are 88 percent more engaged at work. Work space can be seen as part of the HR agenda to extend the company’s culture and engage employees in different ways.
  • With whom we work: One likely factor to improve employee happiness is feeling that you’re part of an extraordinary team, that you’re learning and growing, and that you can make a real difference, according to Harvard Business Review’s study. Feeling a sense of community is crucial for people’s happiness at work. Forward-looking HR professionals can benefit from planning for a blended workforce and address issues such as; how do you onboard and integrate fluid workers? 

  • How we work: The most essential factor, according to Harvard Business Review, it the feeling that you derive meaning and purpose from the company’s mission. This is twofold: It’s both about feeling inner-purpose. “I’m learning new skills here that will further my career”, and it’s about outer-purpose: “My work is making this world a bit better.”

When first beginning their journey, most companies have a deep sense of purpose and mission, which attracts and inspires employees throughout the company. Unfortunately, companies can tend lose this sense of mission when organization ages, according to Harvard Business Review. At that point, some companies converge to the goal of making money to keep stakeholders happy, not exactly an inspiring goal to the employees.

The key is to connect the employee’s mission to the company’s overall purpose. It’s about focusing on creating an employee experience that will seem valuable to them so they get that sense of fulfillment. If they don’t find it, they are likely to be will be less engaged. They won’t promote your company to others, let alone get back to it at a later point. You also have to focus on creating a great employee experience. Read more about this in this blogpost Focus on Employee Experience to Attract the Best Freelance Talent. Again, understanding recruitment is about understanding people. How would you yourself like to be treated? Develop your employee experience accordingly.


The future of successful HR management is about accepting that how we find, recruit, and retain workers is changing and take the opportunities that lie in these changes. Recruitment is not about ownership, but about access. And retainment is not about economic reward programs alone, but about building purpose into the employee experience, while accepting that people work for same employer for shorter periods than ever.

Follow these rules and you’ll give your company a competitive edge.

To learn more about this topic follow Worksome on Linkedin and Facebook.



Worksome is London’s marketplace for highly skilled freelancers and independent consultants. As a Scandinavian startup created by x-Googlers, we make hiring hassle-free and agile. There’s no skills shortage in the freelance economy. Find your next freelancer on Worksome – The freelance marketplace for high growth companies.


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