Dear Addi P.,
We have a great base of millennial talent in our organization. But we're getting discouraged — it seems this generation quits after only a year or two on the job. How can we increase retention of our millennial employees?
— Revolving Door in Rochester
Dear Revolving Door,
First of all, it's not just you. Organizations across the globe are struggling with the issue of millennial talent retention. Gallup notes that 21% of millenials have changed jobs in the past year and that the cost to the annual US economy is about $30.5 billion. Not only is it challenging to watch great talent walk out the door, it's also expensive.
Job Cycles Are Shifting
There's no lack of research about shortening job cycles, especially within the millennial generation. Everything from the desire for work-life flexibility, better leadership development opportunities and a desire to make a difference are all at the top of the list for why millennials seek new jobs.
But it's not all bad news. This year saw a shift in shrinking job cycles. The revolving exit door may not be spinning as quickly. In the face of global and political uncertainty, millennials seem to be looking more favorably at jobs that offer stability. According to Deloitte, 31 percent of millennials in the U.S. say they'd stay with an employer beyond five years — up 4 percent from 2016.
It's easy to understand why these are employees you want to retain. Among other qualities, millennials are known for their sense of civic duty and technological skills. They take their role as members of a global community seriously and are known for approaching life with a sense of optimism as well as realism. As for their reputation for being highly competitive as well as tolerant, as Forbes notes, those strengths can be put to use for the good of your organization.
Millennial Talent Retention: Help Them Want to Stay
To tackle this issue, it's important to realize that millennials are motivated by a sincere desire to learn and develop that extends to every part of their lives, including the workplace, as explained by Harvard Business Review. This is the generation that has grown up with nearly unlimited access to knowledge. They want to learn something new that they can use to do their jobs better. So, to keep these employees engaged and potentially extend their tenure, capitalize on that desire to learn by giving them the opportunity and tools to do so.
Consider training and development opportunities beyond their current job needs or functions. Offer cross-training in different departments or functions. Look for ways to increase transparency about decisions, strategies and organizational goals. Provide programs, mentorships, coaching, and feedback wherever possible.
Accept the possibility, maybe even the likelihood, that they'll leave within a few years. Some of this is inevitable. Life changes such as getting married, starting families and deciding to pursue advanced degrees have always contributed to higher turnover rates for younger employees. Then, adjust your approach to allow the organization to benefit from what they have to offer in the moment. Not only will your organization benefit from their curiosity, but you might just deter them from walking through that revolving door.
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