Employee Retention With Millennials Calls for Different Motivators

Fifty years ago, career building was a very different journey than the one the majority of our workforce experiences today. Presently, Generation Y, also referred to as “millennials,” makes up roughly 45% of the workforce, according to a study by PayScale. Though millenials constitute a larger percentage of business overall, they aren’t staying with companies for as long their parents and grandparents or for the same reasons.

In national surveys by the Bureau of Labor Statistics the average American’s job tenure was 10 years in 2008 and by 2012 had dropped to 4.4 years. The “Baby Boomers,” those born after WWII until 1964, sought careers that offered prestige, fiscal support, and security in longevity. Their children, Generation X, pursued careers with a similar drive but with a greater desire for autonomy and an improved work-life balance to invest in their family. Millenials have absorbed these ideals too but introduced their own complexities of career motivators, expectations, and needs.

Compared to their predecessors’ career trajectories, millenials have job tenures of about 2 years according to the Future Workplace’s Multiple Generations @ Work. Since the reasons why employees commit to their work have changed, the methods of encouraging employee retention in companies also need to be reevaluated. Purpose-driven work, consistent communication, continued education, and corporate culture weigh heavily on the scales for millenials’ assessment of a position.

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Opportunities and Growth. When an employee first comes on board with a new company, they will feel the challenges and learning curve of the position. An employee who is excited to meet these obstacles will always be an asset to a business, and with repetition they will master the process. The problem is that mastery of a skill or action will eventually lead to stagnation. Without added stimulation or new complexities to a position an employee’s work can suffer from monotony.  That’s not the mark of purely a millennial problem either, that’s a mark of humanity. According to a study on career satisfaction by the University of Kent, we enjoy learning new skills and performing where we feel we are stretching our capabilities. Diversifying employees’ responsibilities can boost the morale of an entire organization with greater interdepartmental communication and introduce fresh perspectives on projects.

Feedback and Recognition. Everyone appreciates hearing that their labors and initiatives are noticed and valued. According to Bruce Mayhew Consulting, millenials may appreciate this communication more so than any past generation because of how they were uniquely raised. Their two-income parents were often away at work but with the capability to provide rich experiences to their children that would match their own busy schedules. In these learning opportunities millenials received consistent feedback and positive reinforcement for their efforts, and were regularly asked their own opinions on what they enjoyed. Millenials don’t need to receive a trophy for completing every work assignment but they highly value communication, coaching, and praise when praise is due. It’s interesting to note that Bruce Mayhew Consulting even notes that, “They are driven less by money and more by accomplishment.” Provide millennial employees with a mentor and an open door policy on questions and they will feel tied into the company with an understanding of how to grow their skills within the organization.

Flexibility and Unique Benefits. Much in the same way that millenials value purpose and achievement above financial gain, they also value experiences like flexible schedules and time off. In the same study from Multiple Generations @ Work, it found that 44% of employees aren’t aware of their company’s telecommuting policy. Paired with the study from Global Workplace Analytics that shows that telecommuting grew nearly 80% from 2005 to 2012 alone, not offering this modern workforce some flexibility is likely to result in lost employees. This ties into improved communication once again. When clear goals and missions are spelled out millenials will work towards them, whether it’s from home, a coffee shop, or in the office. Flex time, summer vacation days, or even shorter working weeks are all benefits to consider as the pace of the working world changes. An added bonus, indicated in research by Talent Management, is that flexible schedules and shorter working hours actually increase productivity when on the clock and prevent employee burn out.

Time and money is spent in the search for great employees but it loses its value without a supportive and informed employee retention plan. Instead of solely critiquing the employee, it’s time to hone in on how to create better positions and corporate cultures that ignite passion and dedication in an individual. If we do this well not only will we have a stronger, more committed workforce but a happier and healthier one too.

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John Giaimo

John Giaimo
John Giaimo is president of Software Resources Inc., an IT Staffing Solutions firm. Founded in 1992, Software Resources is a certified women-owned business enterprise (WBE), and is a national award-winning staffing firm serving clients in the U.S.

John Giaimo

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