If your company hasn’t already adjusted its HR practices to accommodate millennial preferences, it should probably take a look at what it will need to do in the future to retain talent.
Why? There are two major drivers pushing for change in today’s workforce. One is the pending worker shortage, which will soon be forcing many employers to scramble for employees, if they aren’t already. Earlier this year, the record 6.7 million job openings in the U.S. officially exceeded the 6 million who are unemployed, according to CNBC. And a JP Morgan Chase poll earlier this year found that 52 percent of execs at mid-sized U.S. businesses are concerned about the limited supply of job applicants in general, while 50 percent are worried about their lack of skills or training.
Secondly, the fact that millennials now make up the biggest working generation (by 2020, they’ll represent 50 percent of the U.S. workforce) means they’re in a good position to flex their collective clout and seek the elements they want in an employer. And research shows they prioritize different aspects of work than the generations preceding them.
If you rely on millennials ages 22 to 36 to help run your business, you may wish to be aware of the following facts about millennial workers and consider the following suggestions for addressing their needs.
- Many millennials have more job options. Depending on your industry, your best talent may be heavily sought after by your competitors. That may require you to step up your employee offerings to attract young people to your company, perhaps boosting salaries and benefits and adding new perks. You should also review your recruiting techniques, ensuring that you’re optimizing all channels available (including social media) and making your application process fast and friction-free.
- Millennials want continual feedback about their job performance. That may mean regular “check-in” sessions with their mentors or supervisors instead of few-and-far-between annual reviews. Another helpful tool may be a digital channel rewards system that automatically offers workers company-wide recognition and a monetary or non-monetary prize for achieving certain milestones. “It turns out that young people, while enthusiastic workers and successful employees, have a lot of anxiety and uncertainty about their work,” advises Anna Bahney on CNN Money, pointing to a recent study on millennials by researcher Department26. The study itself reports: “When they can’t see a tangible impact, when there’s no path in sight, or when more is expected without some sort of reward, the millennial paradigm is threatened, and they have no qualms in cutting their losses.”
- Millennials value experiences over money accumulation. The study also determined that members of this generation place more importance on the quality and meaning of their current lives — and their sense of freedom — than accruing a “nest egg” for retirement. “If they can pay their bills and travel a little, what matters most is that they are doing something inspiring that they feel passionately about,” notes study author Betsy Wecker in the CNN article. Adds Bahney: “Young people will walk if they don’t see the meaning in it — no matter how much they are paid.” For employers, that may mean working harder to ensure you’re creating an enjoyable workplace, that your people have access to a healthy work-life balance and that they’re feeling appropriately challenged in their roles. You can also create a better sense of engagement if you’re clear about what the company is trying to accomplish, how each person contributes to the overall goal and why everyone matters.
- Millennials want to feel empowered. The study shows that they seek workplaces where they feel trusted and have a certain level of ownership over their own work. That’s really just common sense; few people like to feel micromanaged, and everyone likes to feel their skills and talents are being used to maximum effectiveness. For that reason, employers may wish to enact flexible and/or at-home work schedules that enable their people to tailor their workloads according to their personal routines and energy levels. “For millennials to feel fully empowered in their roles, they must be treated like the entrepreneurs they imagine themselves to be,” reports the study. “The thought of not being granted flexibility in exchange for hitting performance metrics is absurd to millennials.”