When employers are thinking about employee retention these days, one of the biggest concerns is how to retain members of the Millennial generation. While this issue spans across all sectors, it is perhaps heightened in education where the workforce leans toward the younger side, especially with charter schools and the education reform movement.
The first step in tackling this concern is an acceptance of today’s gig economy – this is just the way the world works now so organizations have to adapt and learn how to excel in this environment rather than try to change it. A 2016 report by the Bureau of Labor Statistics suggests that the average tenure of a Millennial is less than three years, not even a third of the average 10 year tenure of a Baby Boomer. We know Millennials are going to hop around jobs, so how do we best work within this new reality?
In the end, your goal is not to keep Millennials from leaving – this frankly is very unlikely to happen. Instead, your goal should be to lengthen their tenure in your organization, and thus maximize their impact at your organization. How do you achieve this? Try these five investments to help you retain Millennials.
There are a few commonalities among what Millennials desire in the workplace. The first is perks of many varieties, whether it’s the flexibility to work remotely from home on some days or a compensation package that provides benefits like reimbursement for gym memberships. Offering a work environment with flexibility is key to attracting and retaining Millennials, because they recognize that you are making an investment in them when you pay attention to the things that they care about. Concerned about the budget? Don’t worry – you don’t have to offer all the fancy perks that Google and Facebook offer their employees. Many of the perks Millennials desire are non-monetary and may actually increase productivity, such as a day to work from home once a week (and thus save the commute), a shift in work hours earlier or later to avoid traffic, or a relaxed dress code, etc. Try adding one to your team on a short-term basis and see what results you achieve.
Another theme of what Millennials desire in their roles is concrete, actionable feedback. Millennials are used to being informed on all aspects of their lives and this includes their work performance. You can provide this facet by setting measurable, annual performance goals and having semi-regular opportunities for feedback, such as a weekly 1-on-1 check-in. Because Millennials are often looking for opportunities for advancement, this forum allows you to give them things to work and grow on, plus it creates a place for transparency so that they can also bring up any feedback or questions they have for you.
Millennials are often looking for opportunities to develop their leadership skills as well as have leadership roles. In a global survey Deloitte produced on what Millennials want in the workplace, they found that 63 percent of Millennials thought that their “leadership skills are not being fully developed” in their current role. That’s a huge number that should scare any organization that is trying to produce the future leaders of tomorrow – plus it hurts your retention numbers. Deloitte also found that employees who thought their leadership skills were being developed were more loyal to their company and thought they would stay longer. Along these same lines, the more loyal employees thought their organizations provided “a lot of support/training available to those wishing to take on leadership roles” and they believed that “younger employees are actively encouraged to aim for leadership roles”.
It might be at this point that you’re thinking ‘I get that – but we’re a small team and there are only so many opportunities for leadership’. Leadership doesn’t only come in the form of a job title. The same can be said of professional development, it doesn’t only come through attending a seminar. With those ideas in mind, create projects to stretch the capabilities of your more junior staff. Stretch assignments will force them to learn and grow in order to accomplish the project successfully, thereby actively flexing those leadership muscles to conquer the challenge. Most people learn and develop more through trial and error and on-the-job training, plus it might give them something good to put on their resume (and why would you want to do that? Check out the last section). Additionally, if you’re able to in your organization, try to let Millennials pursue a passion project.
This might be one of the most obvious ones. The aforementioned Deloitte survey found that “those intending to stay with their organization for more than five years are twice as likely to have a mentor (68 percent) than not (32 percent)”. What makes an ideal mentor? When possible, a mentor should not be the individual’s boss, but rather someone who has been in the shoes of the mentee, takes the time to develop a relationship with the mentee, and provides wisdom and counsel to the mentee to help them advance in their career. These mentor relationships should provide a safe space for your employee to ask questions and consider their future.
Support for their career aspirations
Have you ever taken the time to ask your staff, Millennials or not, where they want to be in two, five, or 10 years? You should be asking this question – and creating a safe space around it – knowing full well that this means some of your staff will indicate that their plan involves leaving your organization at some point. As their supervisor, you should know the answer to this question, and you should make it a priority to help them reach these professional goals through creating opportunities for growth, providing feedback, and mentoring/giving counsel. By helping your staff grow professionally, you’ll likely retain a stronger commitment to the organization while you have them on the team, and you won’t be surprised when they give notice of their upcoming transition. In fact, they’ll likely give you a longer notice, providing you with time to proactively plan for their departure.
In the end, try not to frame the issue of retaining Millennials as a “problem”. There is no answer for this challenge, only strategies you should utilize to extend the average life and impact of a Millennial at your organization. Invest in them now and be their champion when they leave.