Many companies are finding that the practices that worked to retain employees in the past aren’t working with the newer generation of workers known as “millennials.” Employers must serve the needs of three generations: baby boomers, born between 1946 and 1964; Gen-Xers, born between 1965 and 1980; and Generation Y, also known as millennials, born between 1983 and 2001. With the age difference between the oldest and the youngest generations spanning nearly 40 years, it’s no surprise that employers are finding that the “best practices” that retained baby boomers don’t have the same appeal to their millennial counterparts. However, millennials are integral to the future success of businesses across the country, and there are specific steps you can take to retain this young talent.
Retaining the Millennial Generation
Members of the millennial generation are the least likely of the three groups to stay with one employer for an extended period of time. The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics found that millennials will stay an average of just two years, and a study conducted by the consulting firm Millennial Branding with the career site Beyond.com illustrated just how many millennials are leaving each year. Taking responses from hundreds of HR professionals in various industries, the study tallied the results of interviews with 5,268 job seekers from the three employable generations—2,850 baby boomers (ages 48 to 67), 1,676 Gen-Xers (ages 30 to 47), and 742 Generation Yers (ages 18 to 29). One of the key findings from the study was that millennial employees are the toughest to retain, with nearly a third of companies losing 15 percent or more of their young talent just in the past year. In addition, one out of ten of those companies said they believed the millennial employees left for a job with one of their competitors.
Why are the needs of this younger generation so different than older generations? And how can an employer identify and serve those needs to reap the benefits of their unique perspective? Younger generations do more than just bring new ideas and concepts to the business world; according to a BPW Foundation study from April 2011, millennials will make up approximately 75% of the world’s workforce by 2025. Employers must invest time and effort now to create a millennial-friendly structure, or they’ll soon find themselves out of luck when trying to attract new talent. Here are four ways to incorporate practices that appeal to millennials:
1. Offer Flexible Schedules
Technology has made it possible to work nearly anywhere, anytime, and millennials have taken notice. Whereas older generations were thrilled to be offered the option to arrive “anytime between 7 and 9 a.m.,” millennials see telecommuting and the option to work almost any hours of the day or night as basic requirements. Some baby boomers see this requirement as evidence that millennials aren’t willing to work hard, but that is not the case. Many millennials—particularly those at startups with “impossible” launch schedules—are known to work nights, weekends, and even 24 hours straight, pausing only long enough to catch a few winks under their desks. Others work offsite from their laptops and tablets. While traditional companies have been slow to embrace this flexibility, those who have are finding it easier to retain young talent. For example, Best Buy began a “Results-Only Work Environment” program that allows employees to work virtually from anywhere at any time as long as they complete their work in a timely manner. This shift from traditional work hours to a more flexible schedule increased productivity by 41% at the Best Buy headquarters and decreased turnover by approximately 90%.
2. Trust Your Millennials
Millennials are generally tech-savvy self-starters. Although they may balk at old-school management methods, this should not be mistaken for an attitude problem. They’re passionate about their work, they enjoy working with teams or on their own, and they want to contribute. If you trust and respect them, you’ll find they have a tremendous amount to offer. They’ll introduce new innovations, improve current products, and develop a stronger sense of loyalty to the company. Companies should develop platforms from which millennials can market and sell their new ideas and receive recognition for their creative ideas. In addition, through one-on-one sessions supervisors, show millennials the big picture: how their role ties into the big picture and their hard work will be rewarded.
3. Support Employee Growth
As previously said, millennials are “seekers.” They’ll leave their current position if another organization offers better opportunities or job growth. It’s important, therefore, to nurture their talents—to encourage and allow them to take on new projects and responsibilities, and to promote and reward them financially when they do. Like baby boomers and Gen-Xers, millennials strive to grow professionally and are particularly intrigued by challenges and achieving the impossible. In addition, they enjoy classes and conferences that help build their skills and connect them with others in their field. If a millennial does not feel there is upward mobility and advancement, he or she will look for a company that offers those growth opportunities.
4. Lead by Example
Millennials appreciate employers to whom they can look up as both an employer and a mentor. They value employers who mentor rather than control their employees. For example, PepsiCo started a “Conn3ct” program that connects executive sponsors with millennial employees to help keep them focused and engaged within the company. Millennials also strive to do well financially and to contribute to their community. They respect companies that provide philanthropic opportunities as well as financial rewards.
Today’s younger generation is more connected than ever through a mobile, technological environment. Their job expectations are different from those of generations past. Employers who embrace the needs of millennials will enjoy lower turnover and innovative, new ideas to grow their company.