Millennials (those people born between 1980 and 1996) are as important as they are different. They are important to American businesses because this group is the largest and fastest growing generation within the workforce. Moreover, as Baby Boomers (those born between 1946 and 1964) retire and exit the workforce, an employee shortage will be created in the United States that will continue to grow for at least the next 15 years.
So what can a company do to retain this important group of workers in their organization?
Let’s start by stating what research has confirmed and most people already know – there are marked differences in attitudes, preferences, and expectations of Millennials compared to other generations. Research demonstrates that three of the work-related attributes that are most important to Millennials and can contribute to their loyalty and retention are good work–life balance, rapid career advancement, and “having a say.”
With this mind, what do companies need to do to retain their Millennial employees?
The answer is simple. First, a company needs to recognize that Millennials have a different mindset and approach their career with a different set of priorities. Armed with that information, companies need to find ways to provide the incentives that Millennials value most.
Enhance Work-Life Balance
Work-life balance is significant to Millennials because real life experiences with other people are more important to them than possessions. Experiences such as travel, concerts, sporting events, and time with family are activities that Millennials typically look forward to and will always remember. To have the time to enjoy these interests, Millennials want a job that gives them time away from work to pursue them. Ways to address this need include providing additional vacation time, flexible working arrangements, and/or opportunities for employees to swap less important benefits for more time off. These options will afford Millennials the time to pursue the experiences and social connections that are important to them.
Offer Career Advancement
Career advancement is particularly important to Millennials and unlike generations before them, they do not have the expectation of spending the bulk of their career with one company. It is not uncommon for Millennials to look for a new opportunity if they are not promoted quickly enough. This is likely due to Millennials’ confidence and desire to succeed, which drives them to seek out career enhancing opportunities in an organization. As a result, Millennials are less likely to feel they must stay with their current employer and “wait their turn” to be promoted. Therefore, companies must address this need or risk losing them.
To address this desire for career advancement, companies should implement in-role promotions and career development opportunities. In-role promotions could involve an increase in pay, opportunities to manage, train, or mentor others, or perhaps enhanced job titles. All of these would appeal to Millennials’ need for faster promotion and advancement without costing the organization a tremendous amount of money. Companies can proactively adjust their compensation programs to accommodate Millennials’ need to move up the corporate ladder quickly. By replacing infrequent promotions and the accompanying large salary increases with more frequent promotions that carry smaller increases, Millennials will feel they are moving forward.
Provide Millennials an Opportunity to Have a Say
In order to address Millennials’ desire to contribute to the conversation, companies need to provide this group with authentic opportunities to have their opinions heard. One way companies can do this is by having supervisors of Millennials promote and showcase their ideas. By supporting Millennials’ ideas publicly in an organization, a manager can make employees feel valuable and that their thoughts and ideas make a difference. Another way to address this need to be heard is to schedule roundtables or lunches that give all employees the opportunity to share their ideas directly with key leaders of the company.
It is vital for companies to take steps to retain Millennial workers. Recognizing and catering to their specific priorities will ensure these employees feel appreciated and fulfilled in their roles. As the importance of this generation will only continue to grow, providing them work-life balance, room for advancement, and the opportunity to “have a say” will keep businesses from facing a worker shortage as Baby Boomers retire.