Published: May 22, 2018

Loosely identified as born between 1981 and 1996, the millennial generation is now the largest age group in American history. With a powerful force in numbers, they are reshaping the way we think, interact, innovate and work; create a challenge for employers trying to retain this group of employees. As products of the affluent Baby Boomers, critics say millennials are the most coddled generation, resulting in an undeserved sense of entitlement. Their heavy reliance on technology and the common trend of updating every move and meal on social media has led older generations to feel generally disappointed in what they see as ​lack of self-sufficiency and hard work. Despite such a pessimistic portrayal, accompanying the millennial age group are the undeniable advances in fields such as technology and medicine. While this creates an opportunity to debate whether millennials are overall a ‘good’ or ‘bad’ generation, the real question to consider is: how do we work with them? Regardless of opinion, the fact of the matter is that millennials are the future of your business. Now making up 35% of today’s workforce, this high-speed generation is rapidly becoming a dominant force in the economy. The key to attracting and retaining millennials is understanding their motivations, being open minded and thinking about how to leverage their energy.

retaining millennials

Attract Millennials by Understanding Their Motivations

  1. They are looking for purpose. 76% of millennials surveyed prefer a career they are passionate about over another that is paying more. Millennials are looking for a personal connection to their role, company, and managers. Having a ‘good job’ is not enough for them. They want to feel like their work is making a difference and impacting the world in a positive way. Believing in the product or service and understanding the bigger pictures provides a foundation that they then can establish direction from.

  2. They want the opportunity to learn and grow. Their investment in a challenge and tendency to move at a fast pace means they are aiming to become experts at their position and advance up the ladder. Critics will say that the millennial has an unrealistic expectation of work progression. If this is the case, it is up to an employee’s manager to define realistic expectations and challenges for them. In fact, studies show that 79% of millennials want their manager to serve as a coach or mentor. They are looking for both quality guidance and hands-on experience to become a contributing asset to their company.

  3. They prefer collaboration over competition. 88% of millennials say they prefer a collaborative work-culture that was mission-driven. While competition is inevitable, an environment that has been cultured to be open and supportive will reduce competitive hostility and replace it with a healthy challenge. If you think about the amount social media activity in this generation, this desire for collaboration makes sense. Millennials not only seek advice such as Yelp reviews from peers, but it’s always their way of staying informed and on top of the latest trends. In a society driven by ‘the next best thing,’ collaboration is key to an individual’s success.

Be Open Minded to New Approaches

This generation is characterized by its fast pace, innovation, and out-of-the-box mindset. It is so distinct from other generations that running things the same way you always have may backfire when it comes to retaining millennials. Studies showing alarming rates of millennials switching jobs. They were born into an era where things are improving, advancing and changing at a rapid pace. If you can’t be nimble and do the same with your company policies, your retention of Millennial employees may suffer.

One of the main reasons millennials are changing jobs so frequently is due to a promised raise. A job that is offering up to 20% increase in pay will cause a millennial to switch jobs. However, studies show that because millennials prioritize passion for their job over pay, they would stay at their lower-paying job if it offered benefits that relieved some of their financial burden, such as Loan Repayment Assistance. In today’s world, 40% of millennials are facing a crippling student loan debt in comparison to 13% of boomer’s. Adjusting your compensation strategy and/or benefits package is a way of recognizing the difference in motives and values between generations and adapting accordingly.

More than a third surveyed claimed they had left a job because flexibility wasn’t an option. The idea of a flexible work schedule may seem unappealing, or as some say “entitled and unrealistic.” However, it fits into this idea of being open minded to changes in your ‘norm’ to appeal to the future of your business. Whether it’s location, vacation, travel, or weekly hours, accommodating an employee’s flexible requests not only demonstrates your trust in them, but also an understanding of their work-life balance. This is not to say you are by any means flexible whether the work gets done or not, but rather how and where it gets done. 

Final Thoughts

I myself am a millennial, and when it comes down to it there is not a huge variation between us and other generations in terms of what we’re looking for in a workplace. Understanding millennials outside of what they are generalized as provides you with an opportunity to embrace the skills they have acquired from their experiences in this era. It allows for a new perspective to develop that looks at interconnectedness as an avenue for opportunities rather than the lost art of conversation. There is immense opportunity for companies to flourish by harnessing the millennial’s knowledge of today’s technological​ age and applying it to your business strategy. It’s easy to condemn many millennial attributes, but successful companies seeking longevity will instead find a way to leverage them.