The millennial generation is now the largest segment of the U.S. workforce; they represent more than 36 percent of the workforce, passing Gen Xers (34 percent) and boomers (28 percent and falling fast). By 2020, millennials will be nearly half of all U.S. workers. Clearly, they are reshaping the workplace. As Paul Taylor of the Pew Research Center says, “Demographic transformations are dramas in slow motion.””
So Leaders, How’s it Going?
It’s been a couple of years since I heard a business owner say, “It’s too hard – I just won’t hire them,” so it seems we’re making progress. But many leaders still struggle with what they see as millennials’ aggressive expectations, high turnover and unwillingness to play by the rules. From succession planning to understanding their employer brand, companies are working hard to get a handle on the best ways to leverage their talented and assertive younger employees.
Six Winning Strategies for Attracting and Retaining Millennial Talent
No. 1 – Offer learning and growth opportunities early and often
Millennials are aware that promotional opportunities are hard to come by; 50 percent were unemployed or underemployed for years following the recession. They want development opportunities that add skills and align with their career goals – even more than fast promotions and more money, according to recent research from Deloitte, PwC, Gallup and others. Gallup’s May 2016 poll on millennial engagement found that 87 percent said development is important in a job.
No. 2 – Learn to “speak career”
Along with skill development, millennial employees want bosses, mentors and HR leaders who will help them chart a career path. Even more than previous generations, millennials are looking for meaningful work. Too many managers don’t have career discussions with their employees because they don’t know how, or are afraid to set expectations too high, fearing they might “promise a promotion.” This unfortunate belief harms engagement and job satisfaction. Leaders need to teach all managers to talk comfortably about career planning and development.
No. 3 – Keep up with technology
A savvy CEO I know has a long-standing practice of purchasing and learning to use at least three pieces of new technology every year. She is a great role model for all boomers; staying open, adapting to change, and keeping up with current technology. Millennials are looking for tech savvy company leaders. Another idea is reverse mentoring; find a young person to be your tech mentor.
No. 4 – Embrace flexible work environments
As technology improves, the line between getting work done in an office or home becomes increasingly blurry. Many millennials would rather be rewarded for the quality and quantity of their work, rather than time in an office. The future? Offices are becoming meeting spaces rather than a fixed location for the work day. In addition to offering flexibility, this means that managers must set clear goals, train effectively, and hold people accountable. In other words, traditional good management practices.
No. 5 – Keep an open door
Despite the best efforts of leaders, managers, and HR, many early career employees will leave for greener pastures. In the past, companies oft en had strict “closed door” policies; if an employee left they were out for good. No longer – with today’s talent shortages, especially for high potential people and hard-to-find roles, companies are embracing the idea of the boomerang employee. Let your departing high-potentials know the door is open. Even better, stay in touch on LinkedIn.
No. 6 – Leverage the benefits of working for your business!
What makes your company an employer of choice for millennial talent? How clear is your value proposition to younger employees? Hold up a mirror, do competitive talent benchmarking in your industry and community, and create your employer brand message. If you can’t articulate why your company is a great place for millennial talent to work, then they probably won’t see it either.
Create an Employer of Choice initiative and let it become a catalyst to raise standards and commitment throughout the organization. The great news is that what works to attract and retain millennials also raises engagement and productivity in people of every generation!