By Michel Koopman
Millennials bring an undeniably unique value proposition to the workforce. However, with those coveted traits are also special needs and wants that an employer must consider in order to engage, retain, and advance this group. The authors of ‘Managing the Millennials’ say “the idea that leaders and managers are going to change members of the current generation into what they want them to be is a strategy destined for failure.”
That’s why it’s important to truly understand millennials (between 19 and 37-years-old), and be able to work with them to grow and progress. After all, they are expected to make up three-quarters of the workforce by 2025, according to a Brookings report called “Millennials and the Future of Corporate America.” The baby boomer mentality of get a job, and stay there until you earn your gold watch is a thing of the past so businesses must take a hard look at their offerings, and adjust it to fit the millennial mindset.
This generation begins a job with high expectations, and their view of the world is integrated and connected. They look for a company that values, respects, and rewards them, and millennials hope to achieve a higher purpose in the world. They offer great technological knowledge, and thrive in team settings. If millennials do not feel that a company is meeting their personal and professional goals, then they tend to move on. Here a few ways to better understand and appeal to this generation.
Mentorship opportunities are essential: “‘How have you helped me learn lately?’ may well be the question of the new generation of workers.” (The 2020 Workplace, 2010). According to the Intelligence Group, 78 percent of millennials want their boss to serve more as a coach and mentor, versus a distant superior. That same research group found that 88 percent prefer a collaborative work culture rather than a competitive one. With the Internet and social networking, Millennials are accustomed to receiving rapid-fire responses or feedback, and they enjoy working together on projects. This is why it’s important to promote a teamwork environment with plenty of face-to-face and real-time advice.
On the other hand, Harvard Business Review described the “reverse mentoring” that takes place in this type of environment. For example, millennials know a lot about technology and social media, and they can impart that wisdom on senior employees. Everybody wins.
Create structure: Unlike the baby boomers or Gen Xers, millennials are not willing to wait around years before earning a promotion. They want succession and rapid upward mobility as well as validation and recognition if they are providing good output. It’s imperative for companies to develop clear succession plans that outline steps for advancement.
Millennials also want clear accountability structures, and ways to measure success. Explain exactly how you will track their progress, and be completely transparent when speaking with this generation about career progression. Additionally, help millennials develop their list of personal goals so they can take ownership of their own career.
Develop corporate responsibility for a higher purpose: According to the Intelligence Group, 64 percent of millennials say it is a priority for them to make the world a better place. That means strong company values that offer a sense of societal responsibility is important for this generation when choosing an employer. In fact, a study by Bentley University’s Center for Women & Business found that 84 percent of Millennials say making a positive difference in the world is even more important that professional recognition.
Offer flexibility and work-life balance: A study by the Griffith Insurance Foundation reported that millennials will forgo some pay for more vacation time and the option to work from home on occasion. Companies can appeal to this generation by offering that work-life balance, and the ability to get out from behind the desk. The desire to work from home is partially due to the millennial’s use of technology since that allows them to work from anywhere. Providing these benefits strengthens the employer’s ties with the younger generation because it demonstrates trust and an affinity to their needs and wants.
It is predicted that millennials will leave their first job within two years of joining. This is bad news for that company who will pay an average of $15,000 to $20,000 to replace that employee (according to a survey by Millennial Branding and Beyond.com), but it is good news for other employers searching for great talent. So, now is the time to reevaluate your company’s offerings, and customize a plan to attract, engage, and retain this valuable workforce.