Once upon a time, workers came for a job and stayed for a career, which made retention rather easy for employers. It wasn’t uncommon for baby boomer and gen-x workers to spend their entire work life with just a couple of employers. Today, millennials are the most populous generation in the workforce, outnumbering baby boomers by over three million, and they operate quite differently than their predecessors.
Whereas previous generations found the task of searching and applying for a new job, learning a new manager and tasks, and fitting in with new coworkers a daunting task, millennials aren’t afraid of such changes and efforts to professionally advance themselves. They demand employee engagement and employee recognition, and they aren’t afraid to job hop until they find that perfect fit. If your company isn’t offering that path, then you’re likely losing a significant amount of invaluable workers to more astute competitors.
My college roommate is a perfect example of the millennial worker’s mindset. She found her “dream job” immediately after graduation. Despite college debt, purchasing her first home, and other debts, she informed her boss she was quitting her job because she felt unengaged in almost every aspect of it. She’s only been there two years, and it’s a position that the company will dedicate thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours to refill.
The Education Advisory board recently found that millennials change jobs up to 20 times in their professional careers, which is twice as much as the average baby boomer employee. A Forbes article highlighted how less than 30 percent of millennial workers plan to stay with their job for at least five years, and 74 percent plan to quit their jobs within the next three years. So, what has today’s workforce so fickle, and what can employers do to solve the retention problem? Let’s explore.
Show Me The Value, Not The Ping-Pong Table
Cofounder and CEO of Podium Eric Rea thinks the problem centers on employee engagement factors, which is a thought that echoed exactly what the roommate reasoned as she decided to quit her job. Studies show that millennials don’t just want a paycheck. Instead, they feel the need to be connected to their professional role and its worldly impact. Today’s workers want to be challenged, fulfilled, engaged, and be free to explore innovative ideas and concepts that make a difference.
The disconnect between what millennial workers want and are getting professionally is demonstrated by a Clutch study that found up to 40 percent of millennials were seeking alternative job opportunities because they felt disengaged and unfulfilled in their current work situation. BambooHR Director Cassie Whitlock says that employers must create compelling opportunities and experiences to retain millennial workers in today’s job marketplace.
Those retention efforts don’t equate to a smorgasbord of free snacks, gaming tables, PTO extravaganzas, and other ‘fun’ company culture tactics. Such might’ve been the way to the hearts of the tech boom employees working at Facebook and such, but it simply doesn’t translate to the bulk of the millennial workforce seeking a more meaningful company culture in the job marketplace as a whole.
Employers Must Earn, Not Bribe, Workforce Retention
Kodiak Cakes senior communications manager Allison Brown, a millennial herself, explains how long-term loyalty from millennial workers must be earned, not bought and bribed. Her ideal company sets a clear growth path and empowers workers to follow it. This, she explains, is how she can know where she’s working is helping her achieve her professional goals.
An Instructure survey finding that up to 90 percent of millennials are looking to grow their careers within their current employment and that training and development opportunities would deter them from seeking alternative employment opportunities backs up Brown’s take on why candy-coated benefits just don’t cut it with the bulk of today’s workforce. Workers are no longer content with being stagnant in the same position. They want to learn advanced skill sets and to clearly see opportunities for growth and advancement upon their horizons.
The days of distracting workers from career goals with sideline fun and games are done. This is a workforce laser focused on results. Rea is ensuring the growth demand of Podium’s
workforce, which happens to be 80 percent millennials, is met via educational and advancement opportunities structured around public speaking, mentorship, building personal brand, career advancement, innovative thinking, and so forth.
Other companies are following a similar path to attract and retain a professionally hungry, eager, and agile millennial workforce. From educational reimbursement to promoting internal hires first, managers are starting to aim at the right employee recognition and employment engagement efforts to more successfully align employee goals with employer benefits so that millennials can stay, develop, and succeed within their company.
Forget The Free Diet Vanilla Coke And Give Your Workforce Growth Opportunities
As mentioned above, millennials value knowing they’re being productive both in their own careers and from a worldly perspective. This is growth, and a huge part of the equation is receiving quality feedback from management. One study found that 72 percent of millennial workers who received regular managerial feedback were more satisfied and fulfilled by their job. That’s a huge HR productivity point.
Note that the keyword above is regular. Many companies start new hires off with routine assessments and feedback sessions, but, as the worker shows proficiency, the feedback dwindles to become less frequent to nonexistent. This recipe leaves all workers free to ponder if their work is valuable, good, or even matters. Now, this doesn’t mean that managers should be micromanaging or overly involved in day-to-day tasks, but frequent guidance and constructive feedback are critical points in keeping workers from feeling devalued, mediocre, and unimportant and thus seeking employment in a more positive environment.
In fact, many millennial workers say that they actually crave constructive criticism from direct supervisors and managers to feel empowered to continually improve in their own roles and avoid employment-stifling stagnation. So what’s the perfect balance between micromanaging and quality feedback?
According to Qualtrics, workers should generally have weekly feedback opportunities from management. Do keep in mind this should be adjusted based on management style, the pace and significance of the company’s industry, and the comfort expressed by various team members.
The main takeaway here is for companies to develop their own hybrid feedback model that supplements traditional formal annual reviews. More in-depth discussions about long-term goals and overall performance can be reserved for the semi-annual/ annual reviews. Meanwhile, HR professionals and managers can initiate an ‘in the moment’ feedback system to address daily, weekly, and monthly productivity so that workers aren’t left to wonder about performance and value.
Change Your Company Culture To Attract And Retain Today’s Workforce
Seeing how millennials have changed the dynamics of employment behaviors, gen-x workers aren’t exactly following the long-term employment footsteps of the baby boomer generation. Today’s workforce is unapologetic and fearless about seeking the best employment that offers them meaningful advancement within the big picture of life, not trivial perks like ping pong and free sodas. They’re fickle, and that leaves a huge workforce sustainability problem for managers.
The bottom line is that to attract and retain today’s workforce HR managers and directors must be focused on adding real value to the work environment by ensuring their workforce stays engaged, finds fulfillment, has advancement and growth opportunities, and receives the feedback and measures to know it all matters. Otherwise, these high-value employees will seek those big picture benefits elsewhere, and you’ll be left wasting countless resources and losing precious productivity as you continually refill positions left vacant by workers who’ve moved on to help advance your competitor’s business.
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