3 Truths of Retaining Millennials

Posted by: on May 28, 2014 | No Comments
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The oldest millennials (born 1982) have been a part of the workforce for at least 10 years now. If you rely on popular and/or older media channels, you will know the corporate world has NEVER faced a greater issue than these entitled millennials (or GenYers)! We expect more money than we deserve, promotions we haven’t earned, constant praise we shouldn’t need, and feel absolutely NO sense of loyalty. Eight months to two years with one employer is TOO LONG! (Pouty face)


For all concerned, confused and frustrated Boomer and GenX managers, supervisors, co-workers and HR departments, I have simplified the ways to keep the millennials you’ve hired and invested in. For the most part, we millennials are all looking for one of three things in a job: (Personal) Passion, (Professional) Development and/or (Financial) Surplus.

1. (Personal) Passion – We’ve heard it time and again, “If you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life.” If people absolutely love what they do, they’ll be more likely to feel a sense of ownership and less likely to seek other opportunities. There won’t be obviously greener pastures. As an employer, you can’t control a person’s passion.  However, taking into account more than just degrees and years worked when interviewing could help. Many millennials have been caught in the ill effects of the Great Recession.  With a poor job market, millennials may have years of unpaid internship experience or worked in “emergency” jobs completely unrelated to their degrees (finished or unfinished). Passion can’t be taught or created (by an employer) but it can be suffocated. Consider aptitude along with proven skills. A passionate employee may be able to learn to do the job but a qualified employee can’t necessarily always be inspired.

In addition, some people do not expect to ever LOVE their job, but they do hope to LOVE the company they work for. Employers and managers directly affect company culture. Before you complain about disengaged millennial employees, take an honest assessment of the way you sell your company culture (if you even try to) AND compare that with what you actually deliver. Are there reasons for certain expectations beyond “that’s just the way it’s always been done”?  In the interview process, be upfront about your organization’s culture and non job skill-related expectations. Try to hire for fit AND need.

2. (Professional) Development – Many millennials aren’t on a clear career path. For a lot of us, the only path we’re on is to the bank on the 15th and 30th to deposit our paychecks. (This is figurative of course. Everyone uses direct deposit now…)

We may have gone to college and gotten a degree but we quickly learn a degree, while a requirement, is often just a starting point. College educates and exposes us to new opportunities. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always prepare us for non-academic life. Careers aren’t clearly defined in semester increments to track our progress. If you suspect you have a meandering (or lost or disenchanted) millennial on your team, fight the urge to scoff and prepare to post their job again. Instead, dig in, invest. As a generation we are thought to seek constant praise and validation. While this is true for some, many are searching for a place where they feel valued. Value does not always equal a raise or promotion. But it does two things for employee retention: 1) creates a personal relationship which can lead to a sense of loyalty, and 2) creates a sense of personal ownership within the workplace. People who feel someone else values their contributions and is investing in their growth may start to see that same value and seek growth opportunities in a comfortable (or at least familiar) work environment and not feel the need to look out. Grow your own!

3. (Financial) Surplus – This one’s pretty easy. The other option is to just pay us enough not to care. I have friends and former classmates who hate their jobs, their boss, their hours, everything. But they LOVE their paycheck. Pure and simple.

Millennials aren’t the scourge of the modern workforce. We have our quirks and there is no doubt generational differences can abound. But we also know how to live in the modern world our businesses are trying to thrive in. You’ll need our innovation, our energy and our numbers and we’ll need your paychecks and support. Let’s figure out how to help each other before millennials have enough time on their hands to start writing “How to Work with Someone Who Remembers the 60s (or 80s)” training pamphlets.  Trust me you’d groan as much as I do when I see most millennial-focused materials…

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