As more and more millennials enter the work force, organizations and corporations are starting to see that we are a different breed. Baby Boomers and Generation Xers may have their qualms about us. They think we are entitled and that we are not use to hard work or that we lack patience because we grew up in the age of technology and instant gratification. The reality of the situation, though, is that we are the future of this work force, this country, politics and yes – your corporation, so it’s time that we start talking about some real issues. As a Human Resources professional, I often had conversations with the leadership at my former organization about what is necessary to attract millennials. For the first time in decades, unemployment rates are low (Thanks Obama!), and while that is wonderful for the economy, it can cause tremendous strain on human capital departments. So, what does that mean? It means that organizations and corporations must do some unconventional and out of the box things in order to attract millennials, after all, we are of the mindset that we can go anywhere and do anything (you can thank our parents for that). This means that organizations and corporations can no longer rely on salaries and benefits to attract young talent. Do we want to get paid well? Yes. Do we want to go to the doctor when we need to go? Of course. Is that enough to attract top talent? Not at all. And it sure isn’t enough to retain us. In 2018, Deloitte surveyed over 10,000 millennials across 36 countries. The results showed that 43 percent of millennials plan to leave their current job within two years, and only 28 percent plan to stay beyond five years. Therefore, needless to say, gone are the days when people will stay at one job for 30 years just for the salary and benefits.
So what are millennials looking for? What will make Gen Ys stay at an organization longer? Here are some tips.
Like it or not, most millennials look at their jobs as a mutually beneficial transaction. We take to heart the concept of we are interviewing the organization, just as much as the organization is interviewing us. That means that we care greatly about our direct supervisor, and we pay close attention to the ways in which they lead. We want a supervisor who is interested in investing in us, someone who could potentially turn into a mentor, be a model of professionalism, and someone who treats people with dignity and shares their knowledge with folks coming up after them. Therefore, a boss who has unrealistic expectations, barely speaks, or is only interested in what we can do for them or the organization, will not motivate my generation to stay. We will leave in search of an organization that values our contributions. Don’t let the “Devil Wears Prada” fool you. We are not about that life. We know our worth. So what can organizations do to keep a millennial? Well, first make sure that people in leadership respect people. Good leaders empower people. Just a reminder: telling your employee you did a great job on that project goes a LONG way – trust me. Secondly, if you are currently a supervisor, sit down with your employees and ask them where they see themselves in five years. Ask them how you can help get them to their goal and then be intentional and sincere about helping them. Lastly, you don’t have to send your millennial employees to expensive conferences to show them you are invested in them. A simple email about a free “lunch and learn” or a training that you think would be beneficial will suffice.
Most professional millennials truly value being engaged in their work and they take pride in seeing the fruits of their labor. For many of us, we grew up seeing our parents look at their jobs as just that, jobs – nothing more and nothing less. We want more. We want a job that we feel fulfilled in, one that we don’t dread going to every day. Most of us want to feel like we are making a difference and that does not come from pushing papers. So, what can you do to get your millennial workers engaged? Give them some responsibility, true responsibility, not something you don’t want to do yourself. This may be taking over a small project at first just so you can see if they can handle a more extensive one later. Find out what your employee is passionate about and try to tie it to something that would be valuable to the organization’s mission. One thing for sure, if you expect your millennial employee to be satisfied with just coming to work and collecting a paycheck, you will lose their interest, and eventually them.
This one is probably the most crucial to retaining a millennial. Many supervisors who are Baby Boomers and from Generation X truly underestimate the importance of setting a positive and encouraging climate and culture in an organization. Millennials value psychological safety at their jobs a great deal. If we choose to work for your organization, it’s because we see the potential it has to be greater and we want to be a part of that growth. This means that we will often express ideas on how we can make a project successful or give our opinion on how we can make a policy better, and we don’t want to feel like we will be reprimanded or blown off when we do. So, what can you do to help set a positive and encouraging climate in your organization? The most important thing is to set a tone that everyone and their input is valued. You can do this by listening to understand, and not shooting someone’s idea down because it may be something different than what the organization is used to doing. After all, the definition of insanity is doing the same things over and expecting a different result. Leaders must realize that when climate and culture are based in fear, people cannot bring their best selves to work, their creativity is stunted and therefore, your organization loses. Do we want ping-pong tables and food trucks at our job in order to make the climate better? No, we do not. We really don’t need that, but what we do want is to be valued.
Millennials are interesting creatures, but we’re not total enigmas. Pay us a living wage and respect us as professionals…will we stay for 30 years? Probably not, but you will get the best out of us while we are there.