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on Leading the Next Generation


The Single Biggest Mistake Employers Make in Hiring Millennials

I just hung up the phone with a business executive who’s a dear friend of mine. He was angry about a recent hire he’d made — not so much with the young professional he hired, but with himself. In his determination to find a recent graduate with some hard skills (technical competencies), he overlooked a major soft skill that was now negatively affecting his team. Just a month after making the hire, he regretted it... and now, he has to host a difficult meeting with his young employee.

As he reminisced about the initial job interview he’d conducted, it was clear that the questions he’d asked were focused on “hard skills”. Unfortunately, none of his probing or searching (on social media sites) took into account the soft skill typically known as a positive mental attitude. “Ugh!” he muttered. “How could I be so blind?”

advice for job seekers

Students today may have mastered the classroom or figured out how to achieve a 4.0 GPA, but there’s a good chance they’ve never entered a workroom or a boardroom. This means they’ve built the hard skills, but without real world experience, many lack the soft skills that lubricate relationships and office culture.

Are Soft Skills Like Attitude That Big of a Deal?

According to Leadership IQ, attitude accounts for 89% of hiring failures. Employers who hire young professionals must understand how to assess candidates’ attitudes (including their coachability, emotional intelligence, soft skills and motivation), as well as how to equip them with the right habits and attitudes so they can flourish on the job.

It gets worse. According to Gallup’s State of the American Workforce report, just 30% of employees are actively committed to “doing a good job.” A full 50% of employees are merely putting their time in, while the remaining 20% act out their discontent in counter-productive ways: negatively influencing co-workers, missing days on the job, or even driving customers way through poor performance. Gallup estimates that the 20% group alone costs the U.S. economy around half a trillion dollars each year.

How Do We Fix This?

To address this problem, I recommend you start at the TOP and the BOTTOM of your organization. This means investing in “soft skill development” for your top influential staff and your newest, young professionals.

The emerging generation is much too large for us to ignore investing in them, and it’s a win/win when we do: profits go up, the culture becomes healthier, and employees contribute to their own (and, as a result, the organization’s) success.

Simple Steps You Can Take to Develop Your Young Professionals:

  1. Select a group of influential young professionals to meet with weekly
  2. Host an initial meeting with them to cast your vision for developing them
  3. Give each a copy of Habitudes® for New Professionals (a new resource we designed specifically for businesses)
  4. Discuss one image each week, igniting conversation on vital soft skills
  5. Review the assignments at the end of each chapter to insure application
  6. Celebrate the training’s completion, and invite each employee to mentor new staff themselves

Habitudes for New Professionals is a complete kit designed to develop young staff members. It includes personal workbooks, an in-depth facilitator’s guide PowerPoint slides, and posters you can put up around your office. It also includes a bonus four-part video series that will enable you to better understand and connect with your Generation iY team members. If you’d like to know more, CLICK HERE.

HBNPLeaderKit_ProductImage-normal copy


  1. Ken Shepherd on March 5, 2015 at 8:44 am

    Tim, I want the employee with CAD. Character, Attitude, and Drive. Years ago someone suggested to me, Hire the Attitude, teach the Skill.

    • Tim Elmore on March 5, 2015 at 3:32 pm

      Great acronym, Ken. Keep up the great work!

  2. Pankaj Kumar Shah on March 6, 2015 at 4:42 am

    Get rid of your bias and conditioning to judge people as too eager, too
    enthusiastic, desperate etc. When your sales team is approaching a customer to acquire the account, would you want them to be less eager or enthusiastic? As long as candidate meets your values screen and have required skill set, stop guessing their motives and reasons.

    Interviews are conversation with purpose. They are not interrogation. Asses people based on their response during conversation. Asking questions like, “give me an example of out of box thinking on the Job”, will not help. Who knows person may have applied out of box thinking just that one time and was too happy to share it with you to cover for his/her lack of creative thinking.

    read more:

  3. Just a concerned fan on March 7, 2015 at 6:44 pm

    I came across this guy whom I believe might be infringing on your copyright…!erik-swanson/czzu

    Calls himself the “Habitudes Coach” …. a lot of smoke and mirrors not much substance..

    • Tim Elmore on March 11, 2015 at 3:41 pm

      Thank you. I will have our team look into this.

  4. Blake Cavignac on March 7, 2015 at 6:52 pm

    Great post Tim. I think the points you covered on casting out a vision and hosting weekly meetings with your young professionals are critical. Being a millennial myself along with leading a couple hundred young professionals right now, making them feel like they’re an important part of achieving your company’s vision (which they are) along with frequent engagement drives results.

  5. Danny Rubin on March 8, 2015 at 8:44 am

    As a millennial, I appreciate your approach, Tim. Engage with young employees and take the time to understand their viewpoint. But I don’t want employers to coddle us. Be tough, set the bar high and push us to be better tomorrow than we are today.

    Thanks, Tim!

    • Tim Elmore on March 11, 2015 at 3:43 pm

      I agree, Danny. I believe leaders must be a velvet-covered bricks: both tough and tender.

      • Danny Rubin on March 12, 2015 at 1:38 pm

        Love that analogy! Nicely worded, TIm.

  6. ThoughtfulPhiladelphian on March 18, 2015 at 3:38 pm

    Hi Tim- You are absolutely correct that investment in soft skills development matters. I found it interesting how this article comes from a perspective that you have everything to give in soft skills and limited to learn from Millenials. I understand you are pushing your product via your blog, but talking to a Millenial you might learn that that is not how authentic relationships are created.

    Outside of current customers, you do not understand your readers’ personal needs and whether or not your product is a fit – or will be culturally accepted. Here’s the thing as well, the young employee probably has a ton to learn, but the attitude of just simply thinking employees need to learn to conform is a flawed approach. Instead, why not get to the “why” 30% of employees aren’t engaged – why 20% are destroying value, etc. The Why really matters – because when you solve why they’re unhappy, you will either create lower turnover or grow your business.

    Conformity, which traditional emotional intelligence and soft skills methodologies push, will not help the company overall. Instead, it encourages those working at an organization to suffer in silence or leave. What’s funny is, the ones that just up and leave often will not openly admit it was due to the unwillingness to hear opposing views.

    As much as cognitive dissonance can be stressful, it’s where good ideas are born. What you’re selling seems to be disabling organizations from effectively responding to the economic, digital and customer oriented disruptions affecting organizations worldwide.

    • Tim Elmore on March 24, 2015 at 6:32 am

      Thanks for your comments. I appreciate your angle that employers must
      understand why Millennials often leave. We certainly agree there are two
      sides to this story—and have written on this. If you read past blogs posts—you would see we’ve challenged managers and
      employers to address their need to lean in and understand the disconnect
      of Millennial team members. We recently released a series of videos that simply addressed the
      huge volume of young team members (often recent graduates) who have just
      not been prepared (by an older generation ) for the marketplace.
      According to a large study by Bentley University, the majority of them
      actually agree they will need to adjust to make it today’s environment.
      That’s our message here. Thanks.

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The Single Biggest Mistake Employers Make in Hiring Millennials