The War on Millennial Talent: the Silicon Valley Model

Last week, we launched our Millennials at Work bookzine, offering insights on how to attract, engage and retain Millennials. A place where the marriage between companies and Millennials seems to be very successful, is Silicon Valley. In the complex and fast-changing tech industry, digital native Millennials are in high demand and today, many Silicon Valley companies are heavily skewed towards Millennials in terms of their workforce. The current median age of employees at major firms in the area ranges from 28 to 31. Apart from the significant entry salaries, stock options and free perks that this war on Millennial talent entails, there are more reasons why Google, Apple, Facebook and Tesla have been ranking top of the list of ideal employers for undergraduates for many years in a row.

Move Fast and Break Things

First, instead of focusing on fixed processes and the traditional idea of productivity, many tech companies have an innovation focus, which often results in a more collaborative, output-oriented culture that allows for high levels of autonomy among talented employees.

High value is also assigned to experimenting and continuous learning in order to realize an incremental, iterative progress; a common mantra is “Do it. Try it. Fix it.” Most tech companies tend to be intolerant of corporate bureaucracy, and Silicon Valley executives often stress the importance of speed to their employees, with quotes like “Move fast and break things” (Mark Zuckerberg).

Last but not least, Silicon Valley serves as a Millennial-proof work model: one that embraces big ideas and aspires to greatness. Millennials often see tech as their way of contributing positively to the world. With Google running a division to decrease mortality and SpaceX exploring new ways of travelling, it is easy to understand why Millennials can find a sense of higher purpose in this line of work.

Although this marriage has been very successful so far, more and more criticism arises and companies should be careful if applying the Silicon Valley model one on one. Much of the criticism can be attributed to too fast a growth and the corresponding neglect by HR. For companies, growing quickly in a very short period of time creates a serious HR challenge.

PIggy bank pink with green plaster

According to data from PayScale, tech start-ups with 100 or fewer employees have half as many personnel professionals as companies of the same size in other industries. In many tech start-ups, the role of the human resource department is therefore focused on acquisition, with other personnel aspects often ignored.

The Stanford Project on Emerging Companies, a decade-long study of 200 Silicon Valley start-ups during the first dot-com boom, found that tech entrepreneurs gave little thought to human resources. Nearly half the companies left it up to their employees to shape the culture and perform traditional human resource tasks, and only 7% had the type of formal personnel management seen at typical companies. This lack of personnel management can easily lead to excesses or misbehavior, from general business mismanagement or even bankruptcy to excessive working hours (and subsequent health problems) to the rise of a ‘brogrammer culture’ with limited attention for diversity.

Evan Williams, Twitter’s co-founder and former CEO, said his biggest mistake at the company was a HR-related one: not hiring enough experienced people during the company’s period of hypergrowth.

Finally, the utopian idea of tech companies operating in a positive-sum game and only helping to make the world a better place is being questioned increasingly.

Eager for more insights on how to build a Millennial-proof HR strategy? Get your download of the Millennials at Work bookzine or replay our Millennials at Work webinar to hear the story first-hand from our Next Generations expert Joeri Van den Bergh.

Want to explore how your brand can connect with this woke consumer? Discover what our Gen Z research toolbox and expert power can do for your brand!

Ready for the Zoomers - Gen Z report

Ready for the Zoomers?

Gen Z are the digitally native generation: social-media-literate, always-on and hyper-informed. With many Gen Zers coming of age during the pandemic, the past two years put a mark on their lives and outlook on the future. In this report, we shed a light on what makes Gen Z different from the generations before them and what they expect from brands.

Request your download

You might also be interested in

Gen Z Metaverse 2 women with caps

Gen Z x Metaverse [ZA infographic]

Written by Joeri Van den Bergh / Katia Pallini / Sarah Van Oerle

77% of Gen Z has engaged in metaverse activities. Find out more about what Gen Z does and how they balance the online and offline worlds!

Gen Z Sustainable future 2 woman 1 guy

Gen Z x Sustainable future [ZA infographic]

Written by Joeri Van den Bergh / Katia Pallini / Sarah Van Oerle

51% of Gen Z in South Africa is uncertain about the future. Discover what global issues are worrying them, and how they will tackle injustice!

Gen Z Brands 1 guy 2 girls

Gen Z x Brands [ZA infographic]

Written by Joeri Van den Bergh / Katia Pallini / Sarah Van Oerle

Gen Z, the activist generation. Discover here how this affects what Gen Z in South Africa expects from brands.