There’s a lot of chatter about Generation Z, but when it comes to the workplace — Millennials are still the largest generation in the U.S. workforce. Millennials are just as driven by the “why” as they are by the “what.” They need more than a bottom line to motivate their work; they must feel holistically motivated, inspired, and engaged, and must know that their work contributes to a greater purpose. At the same time, Millennials are known for high turnover in the workplace--they rarely stay longer than a couple of years, which can be costly and disruptive for companies. To avoid this financial drain and loss of talent, it is critical that managers understand what it takes to retain Millennial employees. Here are several strategies that companies can employ to do that.
1. Know what matters to Millennials.
It may not be just a raise. Allocate your resources to target what a Millennial employee really wants--this is the most effective and efficient use of company resources. Millennials are not one generalized group; they all have individual needs, and this focus on individualism is another characteristic of their generation at large. Not sure what they want? Ask them. Millennials grew up in an environment of customized experiences (for better or worse) and will be more likely to stay if they're asked about their personal needs and feel that these needs are being addressed. Thus, to retain them, you need to ensure that you are asking them what they want and delivering individualized experiences for them.
2. Involve and evolve.
Companies must make sure that Millennials take part in as much of the company as possible. Give them ownership and involve them in leadership. Provide opportunities for growth, regularly check in with them about their progress, and make sure you are communicating with them as often as possible. Companies must evolve as the employee grows personally and professionally. They must provide new opportunities for Millennials to learn and grow, opportunities that are uniquely created for their skill set and interests. At CatalystCreativ, we are constantly asking our employees what would make them happier, be it a leadership course, a mentorship session, or a 30-minute call just to check in with them. If you can't provide employees with in-house training or development opportunities, create systems that allow them to pursue growth opportunities they deem valuable. Not only does this give them a stake in their personal progress, but it also provides them with the knowledge that the company will actively support and invest in them to further their personal growth.
3. Remember that perks without purpose aren't enough.
Millennials must feel like their work is valuable. More important than a Ping Pong table and stocked kitchen (although those things don't hurt) is the feeling of working on something that is bigger than any one person. Companies that clearly define their mission, vision, and values create an opportunity for their employees to buy into a larger sense of purpose and community. Millennials want to make the world a better place, and they want to work for companies that are aligned with this. By demonstrating and creating opportunities for Millennial employees to be involved in mission-driven activities (philanthropic and otherwise), companies enhance engagement on a deeper level, creating a sense of loyalty and decreasing the likelihood of turnover.
4. Be flexible.
Millennials want freedom and flexibility. They crave experience more than assets. They want to see the world and learn about themselves through global exploration. Create systems that allow them to work remotely, or travel often. If they have experiences outside of the normal workplace while still working on behalf of the company, they are less likely to look outside of your company (perhaps to a different company) to achieve these experiences. Instead of seeing this as an impediment to normal work operations, look for events or experiences that will create shared value for the company and the employee. You may be surprised by the results--a study published in the Harvard Business Review found that employees who work remotely were happier, more productive, and less likely to quit.
If a company is to succeed, it must have a thriving workforce. Since Millennials are now the majority of this workforce, it is critical that managers understand how to retain, inspire, and engage this unique and often misunderstood generation. By identifying their key values and goals, providing leadership and growth opportunities, connecting them to a larger purpose and mission, and providing them with freedom and flexibility, managers can stave off the tide of departing Millennial employees, saving precious talent, time, and money for the company.