I have a confession to make: I’m a millennial. Now granted, I’m an “older” millennial that remembers playing the Oregon Trail computer game as a kid, but technically I am still a member of Generation Y. We’re also known by many other names (including some that are not very nice), and we have even been accused of killing everything.
Unfortunately, my generation has a reputation problem. Millennials are often derided for being lazy, entitled and narcissistic. If you don’t believe me, Google “millennials” and check out many of the search results.
Even employers have gotten in on the action, with a UK organization posting a job advertisement this summer that seemed more like a rant against millennials than a job posting for an open position. Obviously, this is not a tactic employers should use to recruit and retain a diverse workforce.
However, employers do need to be strategizing about how to embrace millennials in the workplace, since they are now the largest group in the US workforce, according to the Pew Research Center. So what can employers do to recruit and retain those in the millennial generation?
Recognize Millennials Add Value
The first thing an employer should do is recognize that regardless of the stereotypes, many millennials are hardworking, driven and innovative. Don’t forget that Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg is a millennial. He created a revolutionary product that changed the daily lives of many in all generations.
Other successful millennials are credited with founding or co-founding businesses such as Instagram, Pinterest, Snapchat, Airbnb, Lyft, Groupon, Snapchat and WordPress. That’s an impressive list of groundbreaking companies that have transformed many industries over the last several years.
Focus on the Individual
Of course, there are some millennials who have earned the bad reputation that seems to follow this generation around. However, there are bad apples in every age group, and at some point, the latest upcoming generation always seems to be derided by the prior one. Generation Xers had their share of criticism from the Baby Boomers, and I’m sure the Baby Boomers also caught flak from the generations that came before them.
So even though a generation may have certain shared attributes, it’s important to look at individual job applicants or employees, rather than generalizing about their characteristics and work ethic based on a whole, very diverse generation. Additionally, since millennials are now the largest generation, their range includes a wide variety of life stages. This means that what may appeal to one millennial may not necessarily appeal to another.
Rethink Recruiting and Retention Strategies
Traditional recruiting and retention strategies may not appeal to all millennials. For many in Generation Y, salary isn’t everything, and they may consider jobs with lower wages if an organization’s benefits, incentives and culture are in line with their values and needs.
Some of the things millennials are known for valuing include:
- Work-life balance;
- Challenging and meaningful work;
- A supportive work environment; and
- Frequent communication.
Millennials are the generation that was raised on computers, and most can’t even remember life without them. This means an employer should use a more technology-based strategy for attracting millennials. This may involve optimizing technology on mobile devices (“going mobile”) and doing a better job of engaging on social media.
Job Satisfaction is Key
Every generation has different values, attitudes, expectations, motivations and needs. However, there are certain general guidelines employers can take into account when trying to retain millennial employees.
Millennials have been referred to as “job hoppers” because they often have a commitment to their work itself more than their employing organization. This makes measuring job satisfaction more important because if a millennial is unhappy, they are more likely to leave.
Take a look at your rewards program and determine if it is conducive to attracting and retaining millennial employees. Consider bundling rewards by having the option to package salary, work hours, annual leave and other employment terms with incentives such as gym memberships and telecommuting options.
Additionally, an employer may consider various alternatives to keep employees excited about their jobs such as:
- Establishing a mentoring program;
- Increasing training options; and
- Offering career development opportunities.
Some Final Tips
Here are some final guidelines to consider for recruiting, managing and retaining millennial employees:
- Offer workplace flexibility;
- Encourage creativity, productivity and innovation;
- Emphasize technological efficiency;
- Provide volunteer opportunities;
- Be flexible with benefits;
- Avoid stereotyping;
- Make the most out of mobile and social media recruiting; and
- Leverage strength and skills.
Finally, please don’t blame millennials for killing everything.