We have all read about the generational mix in the workplace today—and the changing values and demands involved with the passing of one generation to another. We also know of the dangers of stereotyping any member of a particular generation: namely, the possibility of overlooking individual strengths, interests, and other assets.
Regardless of the validity of the more common Millennial stereotypes, it is an undeniable fact that they are a large and relatively young generation, which brings with it its own challenges. For one, tenure tends to increase with age, meaning we currently have a large portion of the workforce moving quickly from job to job. (It’s worth noting that, despite popular opinion, this generation doesn’t appear to be switching jobs any more frequently than Gen Xers did when they were younger).
While a short tenure may be a factor of age and the desire to capitalize upon varied experiences and opportunities, retaining Millennials isn’t a lost cause. As with most of us, Millennials stay engaged and committed when an organization demonstrates care for the individual and presents potential for growth and opportunities. Therefore, to retain Millennials – and all key talent – it is important to examine how well the organization and its managers focus on what is important to employees – no matter what their age.
With that in mind, we suggest the following tips to support the retention and engagement of this newly ascending generation:
Get to know your Millennials for the individuals they are.
1. Are managers taking the time to get to know their employees?
2. Can a manager answer the following questions for each of their team members?
- What matters to them most in a job? Is it about growth, flexibility, variety or something else?
- What is important to their satisfaction? What do they most like to do?
- What do they see as their strengths?
Be open and transparent – communicate often.
While the older Millennials may not have grown up with powerful computers in their pockets, it’s still true that their ease with the online world is greater than previous generations. The internet puts pretty much anything we could ever want to know at our fingertips. Social media has added another level of transparency and an emphasis on sharing.
Millennials have the ability to find out things that older workers could not have dreamt of knowing; they also like being included in all kinds of discussions that previous generations would have considered out-of-bounds. We advise erring on the side of openness and transparency whenever possible.
Give feedback. A lot. And then give some more.
This is important for all employees, of course, but Millennials are especially hungry for ways to improve, perhaps because they’re younger and less experienced. They will want feedback from day one to the day they carry out their potted plant. So, ask yourself:
1. Are employees being given frequent feedback – both positive and opportunities for improvement?
2. What plans does the company have for their development? What are their strengths, and how will these strengths be utilized?
Provide role clarity.
Ensure there is clarity on both sides: from the manager and the employee. This goes beyond simply knowing what the employee is responsible for delivering. Both should be aligned on:
- Performance expectations and standards of excellence
- Goals and targets
- Ways of communicating (technology makes any effort at transparent communication complicated and requires a conversation)
- Flexibility (can work be done at home? On weekends? After 5pm?)
Make sure they know you care and are committed to their success.
This is a big one, and there’s a lot you can do to make sure your investment is clear to your employees. Ask yourself:
1. Are we providing development on the job to stretch all employees and teach new skills?
2. Can we provide mentors to top talent?
In some companies, new employees may be assigned two or three mentors or colleagues to help familiarize them with the landscape. An employee may be assigned one mentor to help them understand the business, another to help them to navigate the organization, and a third within the department. To ensure quality conversations, be clear with the mentors about the expected time allocation. For example, a mentor could be asked to meet with the new employee at least once per month for an hour.
3. Are we being intentional regarding future career growth?
Research shows that Millennials want to know that they will be given career opportunities and that they want to have this conversation within the first two weeks of a new job. Are managers:
- Telling employees what they will learn in the first year?
- Ensuring employees know about internal development resources?
- Talking about the learning that is happening?
- Doing after-action reviews?
At the end of the day, Millennials have more in common with their older colleagues than initial impressions might suggest. The key is to get to know the people around you and what is important to them—regardless their age, tenure in the workplace – or Instagram presence.