4 Easy Ways to Improve Millennial Retention

February 17, 2017

These are easy ways to have millennials stay at your company longer and care more.

They’ve been called the job-hopping generation, the commitment-phobes and generation cry. The stereotype isn’t entirely unfounded. Millennials change jobs far more often than non-millennials, according to LinkedIn research. Last year alone, 21 percent of millennials changed jobs.

We all know turnover is costly. When you factor in leadership time, loss of momentum, customer retention, etc.; the dollars rise and the impact expands.

Millennials will be 50 percent of the workforce by 2020. If you stop hiring them, how long before your organization dies out?  Like it or not, you need to find and retain the best millennial talent.

In our work with high performing organizations, and through our research, we’ve discovered some surprisingly simple things that can dramatically improve millennial retention. Here are four things you can do, which aren't particularly difficult:

1. Micro-training

Gallup’s latest research reveals 87 percent of millennials list learning and development opportunities as a top priority in job selection. Training doesn’t have to be formal or structured. This generation grew up on YouTube. Sending a link to a Ted Talk or asking a few good questions by the latte machine is learning and development.

When we work with clients, we use two-minute videos to train micro skills. Leaders can improve business acumen by sharing examples in casual conversations. Roleplaying a sales call or customer interactions are other ways to micro train. Micro-training delivers real-time results and it demonstrates to your people that you care about their development and want to help them win.

2. Upride, appropriately

Meaningful feedback drives engagement, and it matters more than token rewards. Forget the participation trophies, to make your feedback more meaningful, frame it in terms of impact rather than just pure action.

For example, if someone stayed late to finish a proposal, instead of saying, “Thanks for staying late” say, “I appreciate your commitment to our clients. Your work will have a big impact on our client’s success.” It only takes an extra four seconds to take your compliment to the next level. Making it meaningful makes it sticky.

The person remembers it when you’re not around. It becomes part of how they see themself, and they’ll draw upon it when facing similar challenges.

3. Ask

Leaders who rank in the bottom 10 percent in terms of asking for feedback also rate in the bottom 15 percent for overall leadership effectiveness according to research from Zenger Folkman. Correlation or causation? Probably both.

Asking for feedback, be it about your own style, or how client results can be improved, tells your team their insight is valued. Don’t wait for a formal 360, or a bad online review, take a few minutes now to ask informally, “How can we, and I, get better?”

4. Provide meaning

In our work with Millennials, time and again, they stress a desire for purpose in their role.  The Millennials are verbalizing what the rest of the work force is thinking. A recent internal KPMG survey found, “Of those with managers who talked up meaning, 68 percent indicated they rarely think about looking for a new job outside KPMG; that share fell to 38 percent for employees whose managers didn’t discuss meaning.”

With less financial constraints, it’s often easier for a Millennial to look elsewhere as opposed to a longer standing employee, who may simply disengage. Bringing forth the larger impact of your organization and your work doesn’t take more than a few minutes a week, yet it can dramatically reduce the number of people who start looking to leave.

Don’t let the headlines scare you. Millennial retention doesn’t always need a 12-step plan or a three-year initiative to be effective. Sometimes it just takes a few intentional minutes from the leader. 

Lisa Earle McLeod and Elizabeth McLeod work with organizations to improve competitive differentiation and emotional engagement. Check out their LinkedIn Learning courses here.

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