By 2025, 75% of the workforce will be made up of people from my generation, or the Millennial generation. We are headed for the cubicle, desk or office near you. Are you ready for us?
I like to think it is in your organization’s best interest to hire and retain the best people that the Millennial generation has to offer (and really any generation, but I’m a Milennial so it’s all about me, me, me, right? J). Don’t just take my word for it (the hiring bit, not the narcissistic bit); look at industry-leading companies like Apple, Google, Amazon, and so on. These companies have adopted the strategy of employing the best of the Millennial talent pool by offering a work environment that is Millennial-friendly. It is no surprise that these are the companies that Milllennials ranked as most the desired organizations to work for in this year’s 2014 Forbes survey.
So how can your organization attract and retain the best that the Millennial generation has to offer? Consider implementing these Millennial-friendly organizational characteristics that can score your company more Millennial love.
Create a culture of strong recognition and feedback. If you’ve been in the business world for even a short time, you’ve likely noticed that a little recognition goes a long way with employees of any age. Please don’t confuse the very real Millennial need for feedback and recognition with a need for unearned praise or admiration, as I would argue that providing this to employees of any age will only harm all parties involved. That said, MTV’s No Collar Workersstudy tells us that 8 out of 10 Millennials prefer ongoing and continuous recognition (when a job is well done) and constructive feedback (when there’s room for improvement). Receiving this performance-related information allows people to alter their behavior in more of a dynamic, real-time fashion. A recent Quantum Workforce recognition trends report says that learning and development is the second-most preferred way to receive recognition (only behind a pay increase) at work, so if you want to go further than just providing verbal or written feedback, providing learning and development opportunities is a great form of recognition to consider. Which also conveniently brings me to my next point.
Provide opportunities to learn and develop. Bentley University’s recent study, The PreparedU Project, cited that nearly half of recently graduated Millennials give themselves a “C” or lower as a grade for their level of preparedness for the workforce. This statistic is kind of scary, until you look at it as an opportunity. Your organization will hire Millennials with a relatively clean slate; they don’t carry around bad work or learning habits that other, more experienced professionals may have picked up elsewhere. Your organization can train and develop employees of this generation to best fit your needs and theirs. Furthermore, as evidenced by the above statistic, Millennials know they need to build skills and develop professionally, and the availability and types of opportunities to do so will absolutely factor into where they work. In fact, the MTV study indicates that a whopping 89% of Millennials think it is important to constantly be learning at work. Millennials will flock to and happily remain at companies that place value on providing continuous learning and development opportunities to their employees, as evidenced by Software Advice’s 2014 study, which cites that 58% of 18-24 year olds think consistent and ongoing training via MOOCs would positively impact their decision to stay with a company long-term. When considering what type of learning and development opportunities will best cater to Millennial preferences, think about enabling learning that is social, experiential, just-in-time, continuous, personalized, and technology-centric. (For more information on Millennial-friendly learning, download this infosheet.)
Point to work that inspires meaning. As Millennials, we want work that draws upon our passions, which are wide-ranging and diverse, and thus helps us build a more meaningful life. Some of us might actually want to do non-profit or charitable work, while the vast majority, like myself, may find meaning in feeling like the work do makes a difference at an organization that we are proud to work for. While this may seem like an ethereal idea, there are some concrete ways to help enable Millennials to find meaning in their work. First, communicate transparently; after growing up in an era of democratized information and knowledge, Millennials have very little tolerance for privileged secrecy. As such, I would encourage senior leaders to communicate authentically (as possible) about where the organization is headed, what its goals are, and how each person can help achieve those goals, so that Millennials can understand and derive purpose from how the work they do contributes to the overall success of the organization. Second, give Millennial employees opportunities, proportionate to their abilities, to meaningfully contribute. Keep in mind that it may be difficult to find meaning in fetching your morning coffee order. Most Millennials are open to a new challenge and want to learn and develop through taking on new tasks and projects that will push and stretch them.
I think most of your employees will appreciate increased feedback and recognition, learning and development opportunities and meaningful work. These types of changes will not only help you attract, engage and retain top Millennial talent, but better talent all around. And that’s surely a situation that everyone can get behind.