Millennials are an increasingly critical segment of the workforce, but many business leaders continued to be baffled by them, asking loaded questions like:
- Why do they think they deserve everything?
- What can we possibly to do to recruit and retain employees who aren’t interested in sticking around?
In my experience building several high-growth technology companies, I’ve learned these questions don’t even begin to accurately reflect how millennials think or what they want from their employers. In fact, many business leaders (including me) still get a lot of things wrong about millennials. Developing a better understanding of this generation of young employees will help you attract and engage them at your company.
Here’s what you need to know.
Drop the Assumption About ‘Entitlement’
It’s true that growing up, millennials were often told they were the best and brightest — but this didn’t teach them to assume they deserved everything. It simply gave them a desire for frequent feedback to help them stay on track. Unfortunately, most companies aren’t equipped to ask for or handle feedback so rapidly. We went so far as to build a real-time feedback portal for our teams to leave instant feedback for their managers and vice versa. The truth is, millennials want to excel at work, and they want to be told how they’re doing so they can course-correct as needed. You should interpret that trait as responsiveness, not entitlement.
Some employers may also see millennials’ desire for professional development, challenges and growth opportunities as entitlement. Instead, view that desire as a sign that these employees are ready to jump into their work and make a difference in the organization. If your company isn’t ready or equipped to listen to, engage with and respond to millennials’ career goals, then you should hire somebody else.
Understand What Makes Them Tick
Millennials are still learning about their passions, strengths and where they want to take their careers. They know they want to succeed and advance quickly, but they’re also still trying to figure out what makes themselves tick. Here at BlackbookHR, we take every employee through an exercise each quarter where they identify the 5 drivers that are most important in their work (e.g. recognition, money, freedom to innovate, being the best). We ask them to score those drivers on a scale of 1-10 so that we know exactly how the role is lining up with what they want to accomplish. This simple exercise gives us a clear understanding of when an employee is thriving and when they’re not.
The trick for employers will be to help millennials channel their energy and passion in a defined direction. Offer them educational opportunities and chances to grow in their roles. And, find a tool that helps you stay connected to what your people want to accomplish.
Focus on Building the Right Kind of Culture
Culture matters to this group, but they’re not just looking for yoga classes and Ping-Pong tables. Instead, they want a path, and they want to be able to make a difference.
Millennials are looking for organizations where they can do three things:
- Contribute to their role, their team and their organization
- Grow in their ability, skill set and knowledge
- Be rewarded for their efforts, financially and reputationally.
A company culture that focuses on employee contributions, development and recognition will help millennials to engage and thrive.
Stop Trying to Hold Onto Them
Employers need to come to terms with the fact that millennials are going to move on. Instead of focusing on trying to retain them, look for ways to optimize the time they spend with your organization. Provide them with tools that help them understand and use their skills more quickly so that you can reduce your time-to-productivity metric after hiring them. And, when someone isn’t working out, send them on their way as fast and as politely as possible. It’s OK that you won’t retain them all — there will always be more waiting to get in.
Update Your Engagement Surveys
An annual performance review and employee engagement survey is simply not enough for this generation. Challenge your organization to look at ways to get real-time, repetitive feedback and conduct ongoing engagement surveys. Give your team and business unit leaders the tools to manage, measure and affect engagement locally and frequently. Doing so can help you get the most out of millennials and improve your organization across the board.