Why You Shouldn't Ignore Millennial Talent

02/28/2014 09:50 am ET Updated Apr 30, 2014

How do I work with the millennial generation? Can they really add value in this enterprise environment? Are they only going to stay for a short time and then leave?

These are questions I hear time and again. My answer is always a resounding "YES!"

We need to hire and embrace the generation that, according to the Harvard Business Review (2012), is going to "make up 50 percent of our workforce in the next four years."

This means our Gen X management needs to understand how to attract, develop, and retain this new talent. The rules are different this time. This generation looks for jobs through unconventional social media channels; they expect us to text them our offer letters instead of using traditional email.

Being part of the collaborative technology generation, they are well-versed in group texting, group gaming, group projects, and often prefer to work together to solve problems or to meet a deadline.

It shouldn't be a surprise that they crave a sense of community when they join Cisco and with 65K+ employees globally we need to help them build that community and set them up for success.

Here are some best practices we have seen be successfully implemented for building community with millennials:

  • Hire in pairs. This allows them to experience their new environment with a peer and feel like there are others in their same situation working with them.
  • Assign a co-located manager with a local team. This gives them support, guidance, and team projects where they can work together and learn from more experienced workers.
  • Provide a buddy. This way, they have someone who will have time to answer all their workplace etiquette questions and introduce them to others.

Before joining Cisco, many millennials had started their own companies in college, led successful philanthropic endeavors, and generally, felt they could change the world. They are ambitious and we need to give them work that will challenge and stretch them to be the inventors we need to take our business forward. As you manage them:

  • Explain their value. They need to know their work is valued by the organization and how it fits into the overall strategy. Take time to connect the dots where it might not always be obvious to a new employee.
  • Challenge and grow. Give them real responsibility and be ready for them to finish deliverables faster than expected. Check in on progress regularly.
  • Include them in brainstorming. Ask them for their ideas, embrace their fresh perspectives and then let them run with new ideas.

When new graduates leave a job after only six months, it is typically because they haven't been engaged or challenged. When you think about that fact, isn't that true for any employee? We all want provide value, feel challenged and have the ability to innovate. However, if our predominantly Baby Boomer and Gen X management are really going to invest in our future workforce, we need to rethink our traditional hiring and development approaches. We need to be grooming them for our jobs one day.

One way to do this is to ensure they are having the best experience. Ask your Millennials, "How am I doing?" Listen and be open to the feedback. Then adjust as you learn. '

Monique LeFors Edmondson is participating in the upcoming Women of Impact Conference for Cisco's employees, customers, and partners -- a full day devoted to the development and advancement of professional women. Follow the event at #WOI2014 and learn more on Twitter and Facebook. For more information about the conference click here.

Check out more stories about women in STEM here. Find out even more on HuffPost ImpactX, where people, technology, and social impact converge.