Updated: Dec 17, 2020
While the verdict may still be out on the validity of generational research in the workplace, employers by and large agree that retaining the newest segment of their workforce is proving to be a challenge!
Here are 5 things you can STOP doing right now to better retain your millennial staff.
5. Stop Calling Them Millennials
They have names. Dreams. Aspirations and Goals. Get to know them and you may be surprised how they respond. The last thing they want is to be lumped in with their peers and have a generalization placed on them which may or may not be true (similar to other generations in this way!) Lack of authenticity and genuine concern is a great way to get them to disengage fast.
4. Stop Making Fun of Their Avocado Toast.
You don't know what they have had to go through to accomplish where they are. Maybe that avocado toast is their one joy in the day in spite of the fact that it's way overpriced. The reality is, we have to be aware of our (every previous generation's) tendency to put others down in order to lift up our own journeys or struggle. "When I was a kid I had to walk to school 2 miles in snow waist high!" Remember hearing stories like that? Dismissive remarks about the responsibility or work ethic of the millennial generation will block conversation and opportunities for inter-generational learning.
3. Stop Labeling Them as Entitled.
This is a generation that grew up during shifting expectations: the internet, the recession, 9/11, personal computers, cell phones, smart phones, video games, chat rooms, Google, Apple, Facebook. They were taught that the way toward innovation was to question, seek answers, and to seek them quickly. And they were rewarded for this behavior. Shame on us if we blame them for the fact that they received too many participation trophies. That's not their fault. Other generations may see them as wanting too much too quickly, but the reality is, how could they expect any different? And the real question is whether your company is ready to leverage this strength.
2. Stop Blocking Their Advancement.
This one is related to the previous. They have been taught to think autonomously. Their education has been integrated with leadership training from a young age. What's more, they have been given many chances to redo papers, to give influence and make change in their respective communities. Work is not a one way transaction for them. It is their new community. Instead of chiding them for their presumptive assumptions about when they can get a salary increase and a title change, applaud them for their drive and then tell them the very challenging things they need to do to get there. If you tell them simply to wait and pay their dues, they will kindly shake your hand and "pay" them somewhere else. They just want to clearly see the path and know that it is an option. Just because that's not something previous generations had the luxury of, doesn't mean it isn't a valid request.
1. Stop Assigning Moral Value to their Preferences.
As you could see in many of the above statements, the key in generational conversations is to recognize the difference in values; and, rather than judge it, choose to respect it, discuss it, or utilize it. While these generalizations explain some things, no one wants to be swathed in with a generalization. Identify what your staff specifically needs to be successful at work and in life, and speak to that without resentment or concern. The reality is, anyone new to the workforce, from any generation does need coaching and development. We must not hold this against them. Some research even suggests that deficits like these are less about the generation and may be true of any generation new to the workplace.
Let us assume that some of the assertions about millennial workers may be true. They may be more likely to not see the big picture, to be short sighted in what seems problematic or important at the time. When we recognize this to be true, the last thing we should do is alienate the millennial staff further by calling their character into question. Instead, draw them close! Provide mentoring, coaching, and career development. Be brave and tell them the truth about how they must stretch and develop, but only after they are convinced that you are dedicated to their well-being and growth. If you do that, you will have more than happy workers. You'll create the kind of people approach and team culture you need to be successful in work, home and community.