Ellen Warden, SPHR
WorkPlace Synergy, LLC
Atlanta, GA

“Don’t waste time wishing they were different. Don’t spend your energy comparing today’s youth to the desires and drive you had at age 18. These employees are not a reflection of you, nor are they an earlier version of you. And again, that is okay. Your task is to take this new understanding and use it to reposition how you interact with, motivate, and reward your staff.”

-Cam Marston, author of Motivating the “What’s In It For Me?” Workforce

Millennials (generally, those workers born between the early 1980’s and the late 1990’s) are thought to be a generation of serial opportunity-seekers, and many practices are having a hard time retaining these workers. According to Cam Marston, consultant, author and speaker on generational impact in the workplace, it’s not that younger workers don’t embody loyalty — it’s actually the opposite. Millennials are very loyal — they’re just not loyal to a company; they’re loyal to their bosses.

This is why it’s so important to have exceptional leaders in BV firms to retain these younger workers. They don’t want someone who micromanages and thinks of them as just another worker. They want someone who inspires them. Various studies cite that these employees want regular contact with their manager. They seek praise and coaching.   They want “in” on the whole picture and to know the scoop.  Explain your firm’s vision.  Helping Millennials understand their role in a larger plan gives them a clearer sense of purpose and makes them feel valued, which in turn boosts productivity.

Millennials are empowered more than any generation before them to manage their own careers. They don’t want to pay their dues as did previous generations. Positive and confident, they are ready to take on the world.  If they think your firm offers no growth potential, you can be sure they will be looking for one that does.  Millennial employees want to be challenged and seek ever-changing tasks within their work.  Provide education and professional development.  Give them assignments that stretch their skills.  Establish in-between steps and titles to meet their desire for career progression and to provide incremental training and experience that will aid them later with larger career advancement opportunities.

Millennials are more likely than other generations to seek social work environments, so BV practice leaders should include them in teams. Increasing the opportunities to connect with their peers builds satisfaction and company loyalty.

They have incredible comfort with and use technology in far more sophisticated ways than predecessor generations. Take advantage of your millennial employee’s computer, smart phone, and electronic literacy. 

Millenials view time as currency.  While career success is important, family life is central to their long-term aspirations.  Flexible work arrangements and work-life balance are essential to their happiness at work. 

By 2020, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that Millennials will make up 40 percent of the workforce.  Unless your firm creates a Millennial-friendly environment, you will struggle in the years ahead to recruit and retain these employees.

But many of the tactics you can employ to keep Millennials around are the same you should use for any generation of employee within your organization. What the data demonstrate Millennials want from work is very good for the workplace. For example, they seek: training opportunities; leadership development; on-going feedback so they can continually improve their job performance; transparency so they can understand how they are contributing to the bigger picture, whatever their own role may be; and the opportunity to do meaningful work.

The difference between the generations, especially as it pertains to views about work, is undeniable, and savvy BV practice leaders will recognize the change in perspective.  But the most important engagement themes ring true across generations. 

Ellen Warden works with BV practices to recalibrate comp and incentive structures, identify retention solutions, coach leaders on employee relations flashpoints, and develop strategies to meet the challenges of Millennials and employees from every generation. For more information, go to WorkPlaceSynergy.

Ellen Warden
Ellen Warden