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How to Attract and Retain Millennials in the Workforce

By Angela Bao

Nov. 27, 2017
Business people, some of them are millennials, talking in office building
Learn how to attract and retain the largest labor force in the U.S. (Photo credit): Gettyimages.com/Dan Daltons

Millennials make up the largest labor force in the U.S.—utilizing them is a necessity.

Millennials have stirred their fair share of controversy, but they are nevertheless necessary for the longevity of any business. Millennials now make up the largest workforce in the United States and will comprise 75 percent of the global workforce by 2025. “It’s not a question of whether you should maintain a millennial workforce or not—it’s a clear must-have,” says Michaela Lindinger, founder and CEO of brain in spa, a millennial-focused employee experience company. “Gaining and retaining millennial talent is critical because they’re the most important talent generation that will guide your company through the upcoming disruptive times of the digital transformation.”

Contrary to the belief that millennials are chronic job-hoppers, Deloitte published a study this year stating that millennials are more likely than ever to remain at their current companies long-term. However, 38 percent of millennials still plan on leaving their current positions within two years, and, as millennials inevitably get older, their workplace priorities will likely shift, too. If businesses want to attract and maintain millennials in the workforce, it’s important to understand what’s driving their needs.

Empowerment through career and volunteering opportunities

Millennials actually have a positive view of business, particularly big business: 59 percent say that multinationals have made a positive social, economic, and environmental impact on the world. However, that number is small compared to how many millennials think that businesses have the potential to impact change (74 percent). Companies can capitalize on this by creating opportunities for millennials to feel empowered, both in the workplace and outside of it.

According to Gallup, 87 percent of millennials desire learning or career opportunities so that they can feel empowered and influential, and they want their managers to actively invest in their development. “Satisfy their hunger for individual and professional on-demand support,” suggests Lindinger. “To progress in their business and private lives, millennials are fully aware of the importance of having a good ‘coach’ or ‘mentor.’ Show them that you are serious about making them individually happy by creating career opportunities that fit them personally, and are customized to their lives and passions.”

Millennials feel most influential in the workplace but also feel accountable for many of the issues plaguing the world around them. Providing opportunities for them to engage with charities or “good causes” that tackle these problems helps millennials feel empowered. Ultimately, businesses can use this as an opportunity to reinforce their own positive impact in the community (and thus appeal to millennials this way), while helping them create a sense of purpose in their work and personal lives.

Flexibility and independence in the workplace

Flexibility in the workplace is linked to higher productivity, employee morale, and, of course, retention. According to Deloitte, flexibility doesn’t necessarily have to mean flexible work hours, although that does fall under the category; millennials also would like to be able to decide what they do for their job (at least somewhat) and whether they can work from home or the office.

Michaela Lindinger, CEO of braininspa
Michaela Lindinger, CEO of braininspa
"Gaining and retaining millennial talent is critical because they’re the most important talent generation that will guide your company through the upcoming disruptive times of the digital transformation."

- Michaela Lindinger

Lindinger suggests looking to Google, a hub for millennial employment, to see how to appeal to this demographic. “Google has been famous for applying a 70-20-10 rule: meaning, you should devote 70 percent of your time to core tasks, 20 percent on related topics and projects, and 10 percent to learning new skills and side projects,” she says. “Don’t push them into a 9-5 job routine—rather, allow them to define their own schedule as a perfect mix of core tasks, interesting stuff, and completely out-of-the-box endeavors.” Millennials need the flexibility and independence to chase pursuits outside of their set job in order to feel properly empowered. “It’s less about control, and more about unfolding and allowing for trial-and-error,” she adds.

As millennials get older, they crave more stable employment, but they likely will also find flexible work arrangements even more appealing. Millennials rate work-life balance very highly—57 percent say it’s “very important.” As more millennials put down roots and start families (85 percent of births in the U.S. are to millennial parents), it’s likely they will place even more consideration on finding balance. However, Lindinger believes that change in priorities can be easily solved if companies and managers take the time to develop communicative relationships with their employees and address their individual needs. “Today’s successful companies are great in addressing individual customer needs—the ‘me’ approach—with their sales departments,” she says. “They will be equally successful with their talent agenda if they transfer this individual-approach to their HR departments, as well.”

Spread purpose from the top-down

Part of what attracts millennials to a workplace is the sense of purpose that company is able to portray; it’s imperative that a business is able to create an authentic company culture that creates a sense of purpose for its employees. According to the 2016 Deloitte Millennial Survey, 88 percent of those intending to remain at their company five years or longer cite an aligned “sense of purpose” (one beyond simply making a profit) as a reason why.

“Millennials demand more from their leaders in terms of purpose, independence and challenges,” explains Lindinger. “They are much more aware of the ‘why’ question of life, always asking for the meaning behind whatever it is they are doing. If the C-level can draft a good picture of why the company does whatever it does, millennials are more likely to follow because they can match their preference and perspective with the purpose-picture provided by the company.”

Lindinger suggests a simple test to see if your business can answer the “purpose” question clearly. “Take your company’s vision or mission statement and try to paint a picture that comes up in your mind,” she says. “Does it trigger clear, tangible images? Would you and your team be able to collect a set of pictures and symbols that represent this vision or mission statement? Would all these pictures look alike, or would these vision boards differ greatly?”

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