Questions To Consider Before Hiring Millennial Employees
Michael DeVenney
December 27, 2021

The most rewarding & engaging project of my career, and the healthiest working experience, both involved the same fundamental feature - working with Millennials. They bring diverse voices and a willingness to question, not to go along. For me, it has created the greatest learning and growth opportunity for everyone involved.

But are we doing what is needed to keep young Nova Scotians engaged and invested in a future here?

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We followed up on an earlier project to find the outlook had not changed, and leaders need to consider the context and commit to actions.

In our project, A Younger Perspective, an astounding 73% of young Nova Scotians indicated that they would leave the province to further their career. Even more disheartening, 68% of that same group said they would leave Nova Scotia for lifestyle, even though they love the province and the quality of life it has to offer.

We are losing our highly skilled workers just when we need their innovation most, the cost to our future is simply too steep. So how do we support young Nova Scotians to see opportunity and a bigger future here?

In these uncertain times, we believe a simple shift can pave the way forward: focus on asking the right questions rather than seeking the right answers. While solutions for a moving target are continually evolving, the questions remain constant. And ask the questions of the real audience – young Nova Scotians!

The Insights

Our research shows that an alarming 73% of young Nova Scotians, aged 22 to 39 years of age, would leave Nova Scotia for their career, meaning they believe more money would help them live better. The kicker? They would leave for less than $10,000 per year.

Interestingly, 70% of young people reported that they are satisfied with their work, 70% are more than satisfied with their lifestyle and 70% see their life as improving.

Things seem to be going fairly well for young Nova Scotians today, but they are worried about their future. Just over 37% of respondents question their ability to advance their career in Nova Scotia, and only 53% feel they could be successful here. In addition, 56% of survey respondents feel their pay will not keep pace with their lifestyle – at some point, they will fall behind.

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We found that during the pandemic 67% of young Nova Scotians worry about losing their jobs. At the same time that employers report being positive and confident in returning to pre-Covid-19 revenue levels within the next 12 to 18 months with the intention of hiring, not firing. Something is being lost in translation.

And while we see ourselves as great innovators, nearly 75% of young Nova Scotians believe we are trailing when it comes to innovation, and that our province will not keep pace. Only 7% of our respondents see Nova Scotia as having a healthy economic future compared to other provinces.

While our young people have a high degree of confidence in their own ability, they have low confidence in realizing that bigger future here. There is a perception that there is a lack of opportunity in Nova Scotia, and that creates uncertainty. Perception is reality.

“If we believe there isn’t a future, there isn’t one” Focus group member

Almost 63% of young Nova Scotians feel challenged in their work, yet many feel under-utilized. We talk incessantly about creating jobs, but once they are employed, we do not fully use their skills. Young people want to be challenged, to find meaning in their work, to learn and grow. In fact, those with challenging, meaningful work reported being much less likely to leave.

Overall, the vision that young people want for Nova Scotia is one of inclusivity. They want thoughtful, deliberate leadership that espouses an inclusive vision and can show them their part in it. If that vision is to become reality, we have a lot of work to do.

For me, the fundamental insight from the project is that as a province, we need a shift in mindset. As Nova Scotians, we are inclined to take a contrary view, politely and apologetically, but our default tends to the negative. In order to see real change, we have to embrace a positive mindset.

Rather than questioning what is wrong with young Nova Scotians, we need to shift to a more positive guiding question: How do we create the confidence for young Nova Scotians to see a bigger future, one that will lead them to stay in, or return to, Nova Scotia?

Under the umbrella of our guiding question, there lies a framework of key questions that will shape our direction forward:

  • How do we create opportunity?
  • How do we create the perception of opportunity?
  • How do we create messaging that engages our community?
  • How do we create the environment to collaborate?

What does this mean for business leaders? Asking the questions and being aware of what is valued by Millennials is the first step.

Young Nova Scotians embrace a different set of values in building an economy for the common good. They believe that the individual should have a voice and the ability to be heard and feel empowered. They envision a clear identity for Nova Scotia – anchored in our competitive advantage and supported by a consistent positive message. They believe communication based in transparency is imperative. They feel people should be both a priority and a resource. It is their belief that we have to work from reasonable expectations founded in reality, with progress reported and success celebrated. As a population, they see that we need to focus on the importance of health and wellness – body and mind – to have fit and happy communities. And they believe we need diversity that permeates all areas of life in order to create a culture of openness. More than anything, young people believe that we need to let the past go – to learn from it but not dwell on it – to see the positive ahead.

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The culture described above is not a utopia but one of common sense and community. These principles will shape the mindset of Nova Scotia into that of a province that leads and takes its place on the competitive edge, supported by overall wellbeing.

Young Nova Scotians face the pain of an uncertain future and become ‘potential runners’, open to moving because they see an opportunity cost to staying. They already feel the income disparity and have been told they will be the first generation to be poorer than their parents. Even those who do remain here may not fully engage, as they do not feel included or heard.

If you are not seen, you are not heard.Interviewee comment

It is a question of choice. We can look back at where we have been – waiting for someone or something to change our future for us. We can worry about the trend of students being educated in Nova Scotia, loving the province, yet still leaving. Or we will choose a different course. Our future is centered on collaboration, communication, and celebration.

Growth will result from inclusive diversity. Our homogenous society has to invest in and welcome diversity to change the old narrative. A variety of perspectives will support growth through new and fresh ideas. No one person or group holds the answer when diversity opens the doors of change.

What will support our vision of economic success is a reversal of misalignment – no more siloes! We will coordinate, collaborate, and simplify so we start together and get to a better place.

We have the opportunity, we just need to see it, be open to it, and support each other to capture it.

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In this world of uncertainty, the strategy we need to choose is really about being responsive along the journey. We will always be working to answer the core question: How do we create the confidence for young Nova Scotians to see a bigger future, one that will lead them to stay in, or return to, Nova Scotia?

The First Step

To rebuild the confidence of young Nova Scotians, help them see a bigger future in the province, and feel certain they can stay here and prosper, it begins with leadership.

The task is to reshape the current Nova Scotia mindset.

We need to crush the fear of change inherent in our culture and the lack of innovation in our lives. We need to shift the mindset of older audiences and change their basic assumptions about young Nova Scotians. We need to help young Nova Scotians change their perception of the opportunity that lies ahead.

Leaders will need to have conversations. Young Nova Scotians must be seen and heard in order for all of us to prosper.

That is a big undertaking, but every journey begins with a first step.


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