Letter to Employers: How to Retain Millennials

Skylar Wooden and Katie Butler

August 06, 2017

Dear employers,

You’ve likely noticed that the millennial generation is an entirely different animal. We probably confuse you, admittedly. You grew up in, or around, a generation of workers who viewed work as a means to an end—an exchange of time and work ethic for money.

While having a sufficient income is important to millennials, there are many more layers. The job force has changed drastically throughout the past decade as this generation has moved into professional roles.

What hasn’t changed, though, is the need for employee retention.

This post is inspired by personal observation and experience. We’re surrounded by fellow millennial professionals, listening to their praises and complaints. We hear firsthand why they want out and what other companies have to offer.

This brings us to our topic: why do millennials quit? When they’ve made the money to support themselves, have growth potential, and don’t make trouble at work, why do they move on?

They Want To Be Working Toward a Common Goal (And Know What That Goal Is)

How often, or how well, are you communicating your company’s mission to your employees? If your answer is often, great. Millennials crave a sense of purpose. Maybe it was excessive nurturing that made us this way, maybe not. Either way, it doesn’t change the fact that millennials want to know why they are doing something.

Is it just to make money? It doesn’t have to be big or philanthropic, it could simply be to educate others. Whatever it is, we want to know. We want to feel involved and understand what part we’re playing in the company’s success.

Remind employees day in and day out why they are sitting at a desk all day. Being confined to one area for 40 hours a week needs to come with a purpose. Gone are the days when employees accept “because that’s just how it is” as an answer. They have 40 hours a week to wonder why they’re there and what other, bigger goals they could be achieving at different companies.

They Want To Be Heard & Feel Necessary

During a conversation with a peer about employee retention, she said something that really stuck with us: “Feeling impactful and trusted is what we are loyal to, not companies.” YES

She couldn’t be more right. We want to feel trusted and like we’re making a difference. Not just “like” we’re making a difference, but we want to know that we are. Asking for, and listening to, millennial employees’ ideas is a great place to start. Help us help you. That’s the hard part: we want to help, but feel like our hands are tied due to lack of experience. While experience is important, so is fresh perspective, which we definitely have.

They Want to Dream Big

We’ve been told the cliche “you can be anything you want” our entire lives. This may have created some unrealistic expectations for some, but for others, it just made us dream big. This part of our personalities is why so many millennial startups are popping up. We believe we can do it, we figure out a way, and we make it happen. Let us do that for your company. What do you have to lose?

They Want Their Performance to Be Evaluated on a Value-Added basis

The thought of being evaluated on the quantity, and not the quality of your work can be nauseating. We want to have pride in what we spend 40 hours a week working on, and we want to know that what we’re doing is helpful. If management’s focus is solely on quantity, they send the message that they only care about money. Millennials get it, money is important, but it’s not everything.

Producing work quickly, regardless of the quality, also makes employees feel like anyone can do their jobs. They’re just a cog in the machine, so why shouldn’t they go where their expertise is valued?

They Want to See A Clear Path To The Next Level

While you may be very aware of where you see your employees ending up, the picture may not be as obvious to them. Explain what a typical career path looks like at your company. This includes job titles, compensation, and responsibilities. If you expect to train this employee to move into a different role in the future, let them know, even if you’re just considering it.

Pro tip: Transparency is key because remaining on the same page will keep both parties happy and accountable.

Perhaps, you have this outlined for your employees. Great! The ‘clear path’ doesn’t end at job duties, though. Creating that path also includes paving the way by encouraging goals, continued education, and licensing—not just encouraging, but allowing time to reach these goals. Give them time during the work day to reach the goals that will help both the employee and the company succeed.

You may not have enough time to dedicate to monitoring your employees’ growth. If this is the case, it’s time to delegate. Preventing promotion and growth, even unintentionally, is bad for retention and bad for business. Give them a hand up so your company can grow with them, not without them.

They Want an Enjoyable Work Environment

Humans, not just millennials, were built to socialize, be active, and be challenged. If a job consists of sitting at a desk, working on a computer, for eight hours every day, do not be surprised when employees decide that their physical and mental health deserve better.

Incorporate creative activities into the work day. Whether this is a potluck, group discussion, or quick outing, a little effort goes a long way for morale.

Here are some small ways to show your employees you care:

  • Honor requests for standing desks or new chairs
  • Let them bring their dogs to the office
  • Encourage them to take advantage of personal days
  • Send small gifts on their birthdays
  • Order catering for lunch
  • Talk about ways to stay healthy in desk jobs

Millennials have been afforded greater opportunity and therefore aren’t nearly as terrified of job hopping until they find the right fit. This generation has moved beyond the stereotypical picture of men and women in suits sitting around the water cooler. Instead, they just quit. And you’re stuck with whoever is left. Don’t be that boss. You’re better than that.

Love always, Pare and Flourish

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