There was a span of several decades in America when job creators could take employee loyalty and retention for granted. Pensions were common and not yet in decline, upward mobility was alive and well, and morale across our strata of industries was generally high.
Not so much anymore, it seems. A generation after Gen X entered the workforce, millennials are poised to take the economic reins in a pretty big way. They already are, actually — and along with that transfer of financial power comes a new understanding of what it takes to retain this vast and enthusiastic talent pool.
And to be clear, remaining fixed in your ways and assuming they’ll fall in line really isn’t an option. We seem to be entering a new era of employment where our ability to “compete” derives a little less from our ability to out-earn our rivals and a little more on attracting better talent and ensuring a better work environment. Next-gen employees don’t necessarily want to work for the most relentlessly successful company anymore — instead, their loyalty comes from feeling good about the work they do.
Know How to Communicate About Opportunities
The first and most important thing any business needs if they wish to court and retain the millennial generation is a knowledge of how to talk to them in the first place.
You might know this, but many other people do not: America is, as we speak, in the midst of severe labor shortages in several skilled and semi-skilled fields. Simultaneously, it’s not uncommon to hear young people complain about the lack of decent jobs.
Simply put, you need this talent pool to know about your company and your opportunities. If you’ve not embraced the digital age yet in your pursuit of engaged workers and a more robust online presence yourself, you’re missing a lot of growth potential.
Here’s another interesting data point: many millennials actually begin job searches on company websites themselves. Get it? They want your culture to impress them. You’ve never had a better opportunity to describe, directly to your intended audience, what your company is, how you contribute positively to the world and why a job-seeker would want to help you do it.
Communicate the ‘Value’ Your Company Represents
If there’s a sore point among the employees of the next-generation workforce, it’s the idea that companies exist merely to generate profit for “shareholders” — whoever they are. Frankly, even a paycheck isn’t enough to connect the cogitative dots in workers’ heads. You need to place your company — and the work your employees do for you — in a greater context.
Take a moment to reflect on how many lives your business touches. We already think of our workplaces as extended families. What about the customers and businesses you make an impression on each day? How do the services and products you render contribute to something greater?
You shouldn’t have to bend over backwards to create a pro-social context for the work you do, either. There are quite a few ways to create ways for your employees to give back to their community and the world, like matching employee donations to charitable causes and donating time to local charities that might need it far more than you do.
Broaden Their Horizons as You Leverage Their Natural Curiosity
The workers of the next-gen workforce are inquisitive and eager to learn. They’re also extremely keen to put their skills to the test and, if opportunities arise, add new skills to parlay into future opportunities.
As a business leader, you should invest in what’s now referred to as “contextual learning,” which is a fancy way to say: Look for ways to encourage your younger employees to branch out horizontally within your organization. Help them explore new ways to apply their skills. They’ll not just gain an appreciation for — and hopefully build new and lasting friendships with — the people they work with, but they’ll also grow into more well-rounded employees and citizens. With new experiences and new problems to solve comes the natural desire to advance within the company and apply their credibility and expertise to the larger world.
We’re way past rigorously regimented company structures and immutable job descriptions. You’re now courting one of the most eager groups of professionals the American economy has ever seen. If there’s a key to retaining them, it’s to stoke their imaginations and desire to explore the world around them and test themselves against it.
Retention Requires Mutual Respect
Given that you can expect to fork over as much as $20,000 to replace a millennial worker in the future, it’s worth taking a moment to reevaluate the culture of your organization from top to bottom. Are you where you need to be, in a world that changes so quickly and which values very different things than the last generation of employees did?
In some comforting ways, people never change. But the truth is, the next generation of American workers do live in a world that’s markedly different from their parents’. Since we can take nothing for granted any longer, the party that holds the power must prove itself worthy of both trust and admiration.
There are several valid reasons why folks of all ages are losing trust in institutions — and every reason in the world to make sure yours isn’t one of them.
By William Craig
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