Hiring and Retaining Millennials in the Workforce: Podcast #50

Today I’m excited to share with you a conversation with JJ Hurley. JJ is the Founder and CEO of GDH Consulting, which he founded when he was just 26 years old. Here are some highlights from our conversation.

Tim Elmore: Start us off by talking about the change you made in your hiring practices. What started you thinking, “Maybe we need to hire these young people?”

JJ Hurley: When we started the company, we’d been a growth company—both very quickly and very early. We didn’t have much of a track record going to new markets, so I was hiring experienced professionals who brought some wonderful ideas—but they also brought some bad habits. We soon found that our current plan didn’t work when we hit the ceiling of growth. My senior leadership and I sat down and said, “If we’re going to continue growing this company at the rate we want, we’re going to have to, in some terms, build our own staff. We’re going to have to hire inexperienced people and train them up.” This is the generation that we hired exclusively, as we grew the company.

Tim: I remember reading recently that over half of American workers are now Millennials. It’s just a very large generation of young professionals. You’re tapping into the fact that they’re here—and here to stay. We can’t avoid them; we’ve got to begin to utilize them. So how has hiring Millennials helped your company grow?

JJ: Well, we put together a boot camp for all of our new hires and we really grew our training facilities here within GDH. As we’ve brought Millennials into our workplace, they are hungry and ambitious. Their eyes are wide open and they are all ears. They genuinely listen to the instruction in our training sessions. We find that this generation is willing to raise their hands and say, “Alright, new adventure!” That allows us to scale, which allows us to serve our customers and open up new offices. The thing that stands out to me the most with this Millennial generation that we’ve been hiring over the past few years is that they are seeing success faster than we’ve seen with previous hires. We’ve learned that it’s a lot of teaching, it’s a lot of hand-holding, and it’s a lot of pushing to success, but we have the unique opportunity to train them and teach them what it means to be successful.


JJ: It’s amazing that when we do give them a chance to give input and we listen, they have good ideas. They want to be heard, and they’re invested in the company. The more that we’re able to listen to them, the more we’re able to invest in them and implement their ideas.

Tim: No doubt about it—that’s true for every human being. But we have often said, “Young people support what they help create.” What organizational team changes did you make to attract Millennials to your company?

JJ: We made drastic changes. Initially, we ran an infrastructure that was pretty much a free agent market. You’re all producers. You may work together in your Dallas office or Atlanta office, but you’re kind of on your own. Then we shifted to this model where we converted to much smaller units—what we call “account teams.” These are 2-3 person teams that we say are, “doing life together.” We went from having hundreds of employees that are with the company to now being focused on just your account team. We’re also able to give people a career path and to promote them earlier. So when someone comes on board with us as a new employee, our expectations are that you’re going to be leading one of these account teams within 12- 24 months. I would really encourage companies to create what we call “account teams”—or small groups of people that generate community. We also have weekly one-on-one meetings to let them know where they are in their career path. By regularly receiving that over communication, they understand their part in the bigger picture.

Tim: That’s great. What are some tips you’d give to our listeners on hiring Millennials?

JJ: What has worked for us is our referral-based system. Once we started hiring these young people, we recalibrated what we were doing and how we were successful. Over 50% of our new hires each year are now referrals. That is the key for us. Those individuals who work so hard on the front end want to bring their friends and their communities on board too. Creating that referral system brings and breeds automatic accountability and culture.

I hope you take time during your commute to listen to the whole conversation. Click below to listen to the full discussion.

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Hiring and Retaining Millennials in the Workforce: Podcast #50