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4 Tips to Retain Millennials in the Workplace

By Anna Kleiner | 07/28/2016

The business world is obsessed with Millennials right now – and for good reason: In less than 10 years, they’ll make up 75% of the workforce. Known for being bright and adaptive, it makes smart business sense to target this next generation. 

But retaining millennials is another story—this demographic is less likely to stick with one company their entire lives (unlike their grandparents’ generation) and standard pay and dental benefits aren’t going to cut it; core values take a much more prominent role, including a greater focus on corporate responsibilities and employee contributions. Many large companies have already made significant cultural changes to attract millennial workers and keep this new demographic at their workplace. 
Here are four things that you can do to keep millennials at your company—and away from the competition. 

1. Be flexible about working hours. 

As a generation that grew up with portable technology and the ability to bring work with them, millennials don’t see an office or workplace as the only place where work can happen. Being flexible typically means giving employees the ability to work outside the office. Whether that means working remotely, on the road, or typing away at a local coffee shop, millennials value the ability to bring their work with them—rather than being tied to one place by their job.  

Just as importantly, they want to be able to make their own hours. Having a strict 9-5 schedule or requiring employees to come in at 8am every day—no matter what—will often just keep them at your workplace for as long as it takes them find another job.

2. Keep their work meaningful. 

Everyone wants to make a good living, but traditional motivators like high salaries and promotions don’t always motivate millennials. Employees in this demographic often care just as much—if not more—about what they do as what they make doing it. Millennials who don’t feel fulfilled by their work—or aren’t satisfied that their workplace enables them to do meaningful things—are more likely to leave for a workplace that does.

Be sure to state your company’s ‘why’ loud and clear in order to attract people who feel just as passionately as you do about your business.  A purpose-driven company attracts purpose-driven people… like Millennials. 64% percent say that “making the world a better place” is their top priority. Get candidates connected to your company’s mission and demonstrate how you can help them achieve their bigger-picture ambitions, too.

3. Help them make things happen.

Compared to the 1960s, today’s working world is a global marketplace where everything is connected and change happens rapidly. Similarly, many Millennials want their work to move at a rapid pace and to see a rapid impact —and this often means that they don’t have the patience for typical business processes and hierarchies. They want to make things happen, and make them happen fast. While this isn’t always realistic or appropriate for the workforce, there are ways to leverage this energy to make millennials feel that they’re making a difference. Listening to their ideas, providing frequent feedback, and promoting a “can-do” attitude will help them feel they’re making a difference, and keep them satisfied at work.   

This generation values control over their destiny. Companies that hand over decision-making power are more likely to engage millennial employees with an entrepreneurial spirit. Netflix allows staff to expense things without approval – only asking them to act in the company’s best interest. Yammer and Ask.com have “take as you need it” vacation policies. While that may not be possible at every company, allowing millennial employees to lead a pet project or own a certain initiative will allow their skills to flourish and innovation to potentially remodel your business plan. 

4. Recognize that they don’t always care about work-life balance.

Because what they do is so important to them, having a work-life balance isn’t as essential for millennials as it was for their parents. They’d rather make a difference with their work than clearly define “work time” and “personal time.” As one Forbes article says, for millennials “There is no work time. There is no personal time. There is no work/life balance. There’s just life.”  

Improving quality of life both in and out of the office – with social events, benefits and flexible schedules – will appeal to people looking for more than just a salary. It’s what progressive companies are doing (see Google’s free on-site daycare or AirBnB’s travel stipend), and it’s no coincidence that Millennials are flocking to them rather than traditional 9-to-5 businesses.

In the end, Millennials bring some welcome change to the workplace, but it’s important to note that these are generalities, and employers should hire on reality, not generational assumptions. They limit recognition of highly talented individuals who may have the grit and objective detachment needed on a hard-driving team. Be sure to vet the millennials, the Gen Xers and the baby boomers, too.