There has been a ton of buzz in the recent decade about the effects of Millennials in the workplace. Some ways we’ve been described are lazy, needy, whiney, opinionated, and lacking loyalty to our employers. If you have a turnover problem and you’ve been pointing the finger at those pesky millennials, you’re going to want to read this.
According to a study published in 2018 by Pew Research, 35% of the US Labor Force are Millennials, making them the largest generation in the workforce. What does this mean for employers? Sitting back and complaining to each other about your employee turnover without actually taking a step back and taking a hard look in the mirror, isn’t going to help solve anything.
So why is there such misalignment in expectations between Baby Boomer employers and Millennial employees? Boomers, as us kids like to call them, come from an era of going to school, graduating, and working a job, getting married, having kids, and staying at that job until retirement. And why would they question this way of life when it’s proved to be so profitable for them? According to an article by Business Insider,
The generation holds just 4.6%, or $5.19 trillion, of US wealth, Bloomberg reported, citing recent Federal Reserve data. Boomers, however, are 10 times wealthier. They hold 53.2%, or $59.96 trillion, of US wealth. That’s also twice the $28.5 trillion of US wealth that Gen X holds.
Okay, we get it, that staying in one job thing, it really worked out for you. However, the relationship between employees and employers has drastically changed. If you used to watch old 50’s and 60’s TV Sitcoms like I Love Lucy, The Dick Van Dyke Show and I Dream of Jeannie like I used to, you’ll notice things like the boss and his wife coming over for dinner, which would often lead to hilarious situations, like getting fired instead of a promotion. Anyway, the point is that doesn’t happen anymore. In fact, I’ve never even worked at a place that offered family-oriented company get-togethers like picnics or holiday parties or anything of that nature. Now, I’m not saying that they don’t exist, but in the giant corporations and the small businesses I’ve worked in, they didn’t happen. So jobs are less family-oriented and less personal than they used to be.
I’m moving right to the big guns, according to an NBC News article from 2018, 75% of Millennials felt that switching jobs was the best way to advance their career and their compensation. Now, from my experience, this is true! I always seem to encounter a curve when I start at a new company where I grow my income at a certain pace, say 20% per year for a couple of years, then that growth slows to maybe 10% or even 5% or less. Realistically with inflation at about 2% a year, and the cost of living even more than that in major metro areas, we’re looking at stagnant wages if raises are around 5% a year. It would appear that when there’s no more room to grow within a company, it’s time to leave to a new place where there is room.
Growth and Development
This leads to our next topic, and this might be the single most important part of the puzzle – growth and development. Millennials are not generally happy getting a job and doing that job for the rest of their lives. We want to start as a janitor and steadily work our way to being the CEO. As soon as we see there’s no path to that ultimate goal, it’s time to move on. Boomers live in a reality where you hire a salesperson and that person is going to retire a salesperson. You hire a receptionist, you guessed it, you’ll retire as a receptionist.
When you hire a Millennial, you get them trained on their primary responsibilities and then leave them to do their job right? Wrong! You provide a flowchart illustrating paths of growth for them within the company with goals, milestones, and learning opportunities and activities throughout their career. Again, this info is to help employers, so I’ll be honest, your employees aren’t going to set this expectation, it’s up to you, the employer to have this ready if you want to keep employees because that’s why you’re reading this right?
So you might be thinking, but we’re a small business, they can’t be the CEO, that’s my job! We all know that one of the key principles of business is year over year growth. With growth comes scaling, with scaling comes delegating responsibilities. What many employers have done in the past is simply push that responsibility onto an existing employee with no title change and no extra compensation. I’m sorry to say, this is a great way to lose employees. I know, it looks great on paper, but just like the Jelly of the Month Club Bonus, it just doesn’t look good in real life with real people.
Instead of pushing all your growth responsibilities onto existing employees with no reward, promote one of your highest performers by creating a new position for them. The recognition, the title, the responsibility, and of course, the extra pay bump, can really go a long way with us Millennials. Instead of a team of Salespeople, you have a team of smart, tech-savvy, motivated, and LOYAL, VP’s in charge of various aspects of your business.
Continued education is another great way to get employees to want to stay. Let’s say your business needs something specialized, like an app to be developed. You don’t need it right away, but it’s part of your long-term strategy. Instead of waiting until it’s time to begin that project to hire some outsider with no interest or knowledge of your industry, how about you send a memo to your employees letting them know your plan (we love transparency, by the way, closed-door planning creeps us out) and seeing if anyone would be interested in learning app development and coding and offer to pay for the classed and provide some work time for them to practice.
DEVELOP THAT APP! Be innovative, don’t be afraid of technology. E-mail more, allow remote work part-time, try new things. We love working for exciting companies that want to learn and grow as much as we do. Throw away the typewriters and start working on virtual reality applications for your business. Obviously, this is a little extreme and may not work for your industry, but that’s the line of thinking that will create excitement in your business. Imagine how your industry will change in 10, 20, or 30 years? Are you ready? That’s what Millennials think about when they’re deciding how long they want to stay with a company.
Have you heard the term, “find your Why?” Whether your business is marketing, HR, construction, grocery, public service, or the restaurant industry, you’ve probably been asked, “why are you doing what you do?” Now the traditional school of thought teaches us, “to make money, to build a business, to delight our customers, because my parents gave me the business and it’s expected,” yada yada, you get it. That’s not what Millennials mean by “Why?”
For some reason, our generation was born with (and held onto) this innate desire to not only ask you “why?” but we expect the answer to resonate with us as well. We’re not looking for the pragmatic reasons you’re running a business and need a receptionist. We’re asking, why should we want to be a receptionist for your company? Closer examination shows that what we’re really asking is, what is your mission and how does that make the world a better place? Are you giving a certain amount of profits to charity? Do you encourage employees to volunteer and actually coordinate ways for them to do so? What types of charities do you support? How does my role help make the world a better place through your power as a company? We want to feel good about what we’re doing. We want to go to sleep at night feeling fulfilled and knowing that we did a great job helping make the world a better place.
The final, but likely the most important, aspect of your business to examine is culture. Millennials are very much the Gold Star generation. That means that we love recognition and to have our wins celebrated. Employee appreciation should be every day. Birthdays, work anniversaries, family anniversaries, kid’s birthdays, working holidays are all great opportunities to let your employees know that you couldn’t do what you do without them. Teambuilding activities and outings are also an excellent way to build a fun culture that will make your employees excited to go to work.
Mostly, you want them to feel irreplaceable because the moment that they feel that they’re replaceable and unimportant, is the moment they open up their LinkedIn to recruiters to let them know they’re looking. If they’re talented and have a good track record, they’ll be gone in no time even in the worst economy.
- Compensation – Know how much your employees are worth and make sure you’re paying them competitively – not just for your industry but for their position at large.
- Growth and Development – Have a clear set of paths that your entry-level employees can move through with plenty of trackable goals and learning opportunities along the way. We get bored easily and don’t like feeling stuck.
- Continued Education – Offer to sponsor education and promote from within as your business needs grow. This will add value to their employment and their relationship with your company.
- Innovation – Try new things! Be bold! Nobody else in your industry does it, then you be the first. Be a leader, not a follower. Millennials love technology and personal, creative marketing.
- Why – Why are they doing this job? Why should they feel good about what they’re doing? Is the mission of your company client-focused and help make the world a better place? Find your company’s why.
- Culture – Make work fun. Recognize and appreciate your employees publically. Have team building activities and sponsored after-work events. Make your employees feel valued and irreplaceable.
Maybe it’s true. Millennials are sensitive, and want to do good and feel good while doing it. We expect a lot out of the generations before us because, well you HAVE a lot! We don’t want dead-end jobs that we’re going to do for 30+ years and then retire. We want lifelong learning, growth, support, and recognition pushing us toward higher and higher goals all along the way. We want the older generations to continue learning and growing with us. Millennials are experts in their fields, we’re doctors, lawyers, politicians, salespeople, business owners, and everything else you can imagine. It’s time to give credit where credit is due. We’re ready to help your business thrive if you’re willing to learn with us along the way.
Do you have any stories or suggestions related to this article? Reach out and let’s talk about it!