Retaining the millennial talent in your workforce could prove crucial to the long-term success and prosperity of your business.
It’s estimated this generation - generally defined as those born between 1981 and 1996 - is already the largest segment in the workforce, and will account for a steadily increasing share of the working population in the years to come.
In the US, for example, there were 56 million millennials working or looking for work in 2017, according to Pew Research Center analysis of Census Bureau data. That figure is expected to rise steadily, before peaking at 75 million.
The sheer size of this cohort means it’s hugely important for employers to take proactive efforts to keep them happy, engaged and productive at work, but research suggests this isn’t currently the case.
A Gallup report titled ‘How Millennials Want to Work and Live’ revealed this group is the least engaged generation in the workforce, with only 29% feeling emotionally and behaviorally connected to their job and company. More than half of millennials (55%) are simply not engaged, while 16% are actively disengaged, meaning they are “more or less out to do damage to their company”.
This is clearly an important issue, so what can you do to strengthen engagement with your millennial workers and keep them onboard?
1. Support their development
Prospects for professional and personal development are extremely important to millennials, so employers that offer clear opportunities will stand a better chance of keeping these members of the workforce happy.
According to Gallup, millennials “fundamentally think about jobs as opportunities to learn and grow”. Around six out of ten of this generation (59%) surveyed by the firm said development potential is extremely important to them when applying for a job, compared with 44% of generation X and 41% of baby boomers.
Research by UK professional recruitment firm Robert Walters also emphasized this point, with 69% of millennials saying a clear path for progression within the business is the most important factor in keeping them engaged.
“Employers risk disconnecting with their millennial workers if they fail to acknowledge the importance millennials place on career progression.” - Andrew Setchell, director at Robert Walters
2. Embrace flexibility
The idea of employees working exactly the same hours in the same location every day is increasingly being recognized as irrelevant and outdated.
Businesses can improve engagement with the millennials in their workforce and support their work-life balance and productivity by entrusting them with a degree of flexibility. This could mean allowing occasional working from home or giving people more control over their hours.
More than half (51%) of people in the US have said they would be willing to change jobs to have a more flexible schedule, according to the Kleiner Perkins Internet Trends Report 2018. This proportion is likely to be even higher in the millennial generation, which has grown up with digital technology and the unprecedented flexibility that it allows.
3. Be proactive
Employees will have a higher level of satisfaction in their jobs and a stronger sense of commitment to the business if they feel their employer is making a concerted effort to support them, and genuinely cares about their development.
This is true of most workers, but appears to be particularly relevant for millennials. One of Gallup’s key research findings was that millennials want feedback from their managers, but are unlikely to ask for it.
More than four out of ten workers from this generation (44%) who had regular meetings with their manager felt engaged in their jobs.
HR can make a big difference to the employee experience by encouraging team leaders to be proactive and make a special effort to provide regular, one-on-one feedback.
4. Meet technological expectations
The pace of digital transformation since the beginning of the 21st century means having access to the latest technologies - in their personal lives but also at work - is more important to millennials than any generation that came before them.
“Millennials are more likely to use higher-end technologies in their personal lives, so it’s no surprise that they have a more positive view of IT strategies that encourage the use of personal devices at work.” - Gartner’s Millennial Digital Workers Really Do Differ From Their Elders
Robert Walters’ research found that 42% of millennials felt organizations should always adopt the latest technologies, even if the cost is high. Only 9% of employers felt the same.
While cost is clearly a big consideration for any business when it comes to introducing new technologies, there is no denying the benefits that can be gained in terms of staff engagement and retention.
5. Deliver personalized experiences
Rapid evolution in technology, combined with the success of brands that are heavily focused on delivering a relevant, user-centric customer experience, such as Amazon and Netflix, means millennials are becoming increasingly intolerant of a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach.
For employers, it’s more important than ever to emphasize personalization in the employee experience. This could mean providing training that is relevant to the individual, which allows people to learn at their own pace and gain skills that are instantly applicable in their roles.
It’s an area where many organizations appear to be behind the times, with only 15% of employers surveyed by Robert Walters seeing personalized training programs as a priority for engaging staff.
6. Take an ethical stance
Issues such as environmental protection and corporate social responsibility are highly significant to many members of the millennial generation.
As Gallup noted, millennials “don’t just work for a paycheck - they want a purpose”.
“For millennials, work must have meaning. They want to work for organizations with a mission and purpose.” - Gallup
Once again, this is an area where many businesses have a lot of scope to demonstrate their values and philosophy.
The Deloitte Millennial Survey 2018 found that less than half (48%) of respondents felt corporations behave ethically, down from 65% in 2017. Similarly, only 47% agreed business leaders are committed to improving society, compared to 62% a year earlier.
If your business is willing to take a clear stance on ethical, societal and environmental issues, it could have a big impact on employee engagement and increase the chances of millennial workers staying with you for the long haul.