Getting Your Millennial Employees to Stay, Not Stray

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Getting Your Millennial Employees to Stay, Not Stray

Young millennials take a breezy, no-nonsense approach to the American dream. Compared to previous generations, most postpone putting a ring on it, having children or buying homes until later in life.

This is largely because 20- to 30-year olds today have expansive to-do lists and want to pay down student loans, gain financial independence, travel and explore different careers before settling down.

And, without the heavy weight of traditional responsibilities, they have more freedom to explore all kinds of experiences in life.

In business, they move between jobs -- whenever, wherever, and for any length of time -- to seek out work that is meaningful and engaging.

While some will say these workers have a serious case of “the grass is greener”, the fact is job hopping has always been a thing -- generations before bounced between jobs in their youth just as much.

But what is new, is how this generation developed the ability to seek out new jobs that meet their specific needs and life goals and become comfortable with the process.

Let's look at what some advantages are of hiring this new demographic of employees, and four strategies to retain your well-rounded young workers to help keep them with your business for three, four and five years—instead of one or two.

Money can’t buy happiness or, it turns out, your employees

Baby Boomers and previous generations worked whatever jobs were available, without complaint, because it meant a steady paycheck to pay the bills.

Today’s working world is very different.

The average worker under the age of forty today will now have about 10 different jobs listed on their resume. This demographic is one that fearlessly moves from job to job usually with some plan to leave their current position within the two-year mark to further their personal aspirations and professional development.

It’s a pattern most hiring managers would historically frown upon when evaluating an applicant’s candidacy. But as older millennials take on more senior and executive positions there’s a shift in perspective.

Even if they may have bigger life responsibilities, they’ve grown up in an age of instant gratification, communication, and technology. They carry the same youthful enthusiasm and mentality to growth. They aren’t afraid to change a decades-old process or policies they don’t like.  

A job-hopping employee’s value

Unless they weren’t wanted in a role and they left on their own terms, job hoppers can offer employers tremendous value. Because they move around so much, they pick up multiple data points and skills that are useful to their future employers.

They’ve mastered the art of stuffing more learning in fewer years so they can adapt to new technology and processes in an instant. They take initiative in new environments, bring rich work experiences and smart problem-solving skills.

All skills are applicable and useful whether it’s at a growing company or a Blue Chip organization.

How to retain today’s workers

By 2020, half of the workforce will be made up of millennials. The greatest challenge for smart leaders will be to harness their enthusiasm for growth and development or risk losing valuable people.

With that in mind, here are a few best practices to build into your retention processes to help encourage your employees to stay with you for three, four, five years and beyond.

1. Make your employees’ self-development and upward trajectory very clear

It’s important to decipher your employee’s motivations -- past and future -- from the start and on a regular basis. Today’s workers want to be highly engaged by what they do and many want to be at a place where they own their own career trajectory.

When interviewing candidates, you should have them describe their perfect work opportunity to help you get a solid read on what they’re looking for from functional company culture and a leadership perspective, and what that means from a lifestyle point of view.

When speaking with potential hires, make it clear how your business matches up with their values. You don’t have to necessarily map out a clear path to promotion (which may not exist at smaller growing companies), but you should be upfront from the beginning about your investment in them -- particularly in the critical first 90 days on the job -- and how your business will support their growth inside and outside the organization.

2.Introduce benefits to increase employee loyalty, and keep them engaged with learning opportunities

Smart leaders invest in their employee’s professional development. While some companies pay for their employees to attend industry events or provide tuition reimbursement for continuing education training, if you’re with a growing or an early-stage company, there are a couple ways you can show similar commitment in less expensive ways.

If it’s not already part of your compensation packages, consider offering online learning programs through or your local chapter of General Assembly to help grow their skill sets.

Try and make it easy for your employees to always choose your business over the competition by getting frequent updates on their needs and motivations. It doesn’t need to be a formal Q&A session -- it can be as simple as pulling someone aside for coffee and asking if they have any new goals or things they want to achieve at the company.

Find out what’s changed since they began working there are any skills they want to learn or sharpen. Or, if their priorities changed where they need more flexibility. Whatever the case, be sure to close out your conversations and communicate what your business can do to help them.

3.Offer compelling reasons to stay

This demographic wants a seat at the table and to feel like they're part of something bigger, so giving regular specific feedback, and celebrating individual contributions are key to keeping these workers engaged and ultimately around.

Make it clear how they will contribute and bring in ways they can see their impact on a day-to-day basis.

If you can provide a millennial worker with the opportunity to do some or more of the things they want to do (e.g., to contribute to the bottom line) they're more willing to stick around.

4.Be a good manager

At the end of the day, this generation wants to work for leaders who can support, position, empower and engage them. Leaders who care about them both as employees and people. Relax the formalities and focus on building real relationships, a culture of transparency and openness, and increasing the volume of two-way feedback with your employees.

In the end

With the millennial desire to create more value in their work, we’ll see more people opting to get experience in multiple fields to round out their careers. For businesses, it’s possible to create a workplace that focuses on values, growth opportunities and passion for work to give this demographic of employees what they need to be happy, productive and focused -- for the time you have together.

Veronica Feldmeier

Veronica Feldmeier

Runs content at Hunt Club. Motivated by ticking things off checklists. When not writing, probably on a yoga mat.