Retaining Millennials: The Realities and Rewards

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This post was written by Cindy Rockwell, Managing Partner and CIO of Keyot. 

Every generation disrupts the status quo, and that’s a good thing. For the past six years, I’ve led a unique service offering called Crew212™, where Keyot trains and mentors a group of recent college grad consultants that our clients can then hire. Through this program, I know the advantages and opportunities millennials bring to the workforce. I have 100% faith in their capabilities and potential to take over corporate America as leaders and revenue-generators.

Here’s what I’ve learned from building the next succession of business and IT leaders, and how you can make it work for you.

Show how their work influences corporate impact

Millennials are driven by purpose, and your company’s mission may be one of the things that attracted them to the organization. But, can they see how their work relates to the bigger picture? Our Crew212™ program uses a multi-week exercise to help millennial consultants find the customer in all organizational functions. In week one, we ask them, “Who is your customer?” “What are they getting from you?” The next week we ask: “Who is your customer’s customer?” “What are they getting?” We continue this exercise until each consultant can connect the dots between his or her individual contributions and the company’s mission.

Give them feedback, regularly

And here’s why: As children in the wake of 9/11, their parents focused on protecting them in an unsafe world. Millennials are used to attention, and they flourish with it. Immediate, effective feedback allows millennials to produce better results more quickly, making their workflow even more efficient. Regular, open communication—both praise and critique—is an essential component of job satisfaction and effectiveness. Conduct weekly one-on-ones, provide group mentoring, and develop clear goals, assignments and tasks. Trust me, regular feedback will unleash a powerhouse of productivity.

Prepare for extreme collaboration

Millennials are collaborative by nature. They work effectively on teams, value community and will breakdown any silos or communication issues within an organization as they connect across departments, divisions and business units to get work done. While baby boomers want to be respected, millennials want to be heard. They approach work with a “you teach me, I’ll teach you, and let’s see what we can accomplish together” openness that prioritizes goals over org. charts. As a manager, being open to learning from millennials will greatly increase your effectiveness.

Expect a 40-hour workweek

But, it will be a highly efficient 40 hours. As digital natives, millennials are naturally analytic problem solvers, who are extremely focused on developing themselves and they thrive on learning new job skills. Millennials also consume work faster than you can imagine, so keeping them challenged and busy will keep them engaged. Expect them to innovate ways to be super effective, so they can embrace their personal lives with equal passion and energy.

Allow for work-life integration

Millennials need to blend what they do personally with what they do professionally to successfully manage both. This may require flexibility from your organization, but until performance proves otherwise, it’s best to assume good intent. For example: We received a call from a client who was confused because one of our millennial consultants had left the office at 4 p.m., while she was in a meeting. When reached by phone, the consultant was on a bike ride and explained he would be returning to the office soon. He knew he needed to work late to support the client following the meeting’s outcome, and wanted to recharge for the busy evening ahead.

Reframe the “lifer” mindset

Gone are the days of the 30-year company veteran diligently working for a pension. Now, businesses should plan to refresh their workforce every 2-5 years. According to the 2016 Bureau of Labor Statistics report, workers in management, professional and related occupations had a median tenure of 5.1 years. For all workers age 25-34, the median tenure was 2.8 years. However, striving to retain your millennial workforce, even if some choose to leave, is still a sound investment in the future. A positive experience with your company can convert a former millennial staffer into an employee referral source, a valuable customer, or a future company leader who boomerangs back with new skills, insights, and appreciation.

Are millennials disrupting the workplace? You bet. Can your company benefit from this digitally savvy, purpose-driven, work-to-live generation? Absolutely! As long as you rethink the status quo and embrace the millennial realities, you’ll reap the rewards.

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