How Leaders Can Win the Talent Battle for the 'Google Generation'

Companies are going to need to change their approach to recruiting and to work itself to attract today's best employees.

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By Hugh Welsh

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The most significant challenge for any organization, and the only source of sustainable competitive advantage, is recruiting, hiring, developing and deploying the right people.

To win the battle to attract, develop and retain the best and brightest talent available requires a multifaceted and non-traditional approach. It's not enough to post a job on Monster or to scour LinkedIn, hire employees who look good on paper and then hope that everything will work out.

For companies to win the talent battle for the "Google Generation" (those born after 1993) companies are going to need to change their approach to recruiting and even change their approach to work itself.

Related: 5 Attributes to Look for in High-Performing Employees

Below are five ways leaders can help recruit, hire, develop and deploy the best talent of this generation:

1. Look for intelligence, integrity and initiative. Everything else can be taught, or better yet, learned through development plans focused on creating experiential opportunities coupled with mentoring. You can always "buy" specialty experience in specific technical areas, but you can't buy or teach "smarts." Likewise, you can't buy or teach integrity -- you can only try to identify it as a core behavior or trait in those you are seeking to add to your team.

It is easier to identify initiative. All you need to do is ask the right questions. For example, "Can you tell me about your biggest professional (or academic) failure or disappointment?" I am looking for candidates to tell me how they regrouped, rebounded and approached the problem from a different perspective or discovered a completely novel way to succeed. We don't compensate or promote people based on how nice they are or how hard they work. We do these things based on how much value an employee creates. Intelligence, integrity and initiative are key indicators to future value creation.

2. Appearances aren't everything. Many of the best people I've hired didn't have perfect resumes and would not appear to be ideal candidates on paper. But to create the high-powered, learning, collaborative, flexible and adaptable teams needed to be successful in our evolving knowledge-based economy, you need to take non-traditional approaches to talent management and development.

Related: Go on Facebook for Your Next Hire? (Infographic)

I look for individuals with "street smarts" or demonstrated abilities to perform well under stress and who can change directions on a dime, always learning and looking for new ways to leverage and apply that knowledge. These are better indicators for success in today's business environment than just a high GPA or matriculation from an Ivy League school. How did your candidate pay for school? Was it a free ride or did they pay for it themselves, working their way through school on a work study program or on the GI Bill?

3. Go beyond the bottom line. The "Google Generation" isn't just interested in moving up the career ladder and increasing their compensation -- although that is still extremely important. Members of this generation wants to know how their company ranks and how their work contributes towards being responsible stewards of the planet. They don't just want to change their tax bracket -- they want to change the world. Here authentic and credible leadership on the issues is paramount. For example, consider linking your senior executive's compensation to achieving specific sustainability goals, including meeting greenhouse gas emission targets, developing eco-friendly products and earning high marks on surveys from their employees.

4. Empower your employees by giving them real responsibilities -- even outside of their specific area of expertise. This generation is comprised of risk takers who are as likely to start a business as to work for one. To keep them engaged, senior leadership needs to let them try new things and back them if they fail. Learning how to fail is as important, if not more important, than learning how to win. It is from this that innovation, maturation and confidence is born.

5. Create a sense of community. Truly successful leaders don't simply facilitate the creation of better worker bees -- they facilitate the development of better people. They make better spouses and partners, parents and children, friends and neighbors of their co-workers simply by taking the time, being authentic and acting with integrity. Think back to the best boss you ever had and you will understand what I mean.

Related: Gamification Tapped by Some Employers to Recruit Candidates

Hugh Welsh
Hugh Welsh is the president and general counsel of DSM North America. DSM is a global leader in nutrition, health and material sciences with $12 billion in sales, 23,000 employees, including 4,000 in the U.S., and operations in more than 100 countries. Hugh is active in executing DSM’s mergers and acquisitions. government affairs, sustainability and innovation strategic growth drivers in North America.

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