Millennials, defined as anyone between ages 18–34, have been stereotyped as “entitled,” “apathetic” or “unmotivated”—products of an instant gratification culture that touts success without paying dues.
However, this assumption doesn’t account for the intrinsic expertise and potential that millennials demonstrate when they feel recognized, effective and purposeful.
The members of this generation are game-changers, and they often won’t adhere to established business models. Conformity is just not their nature. Still, rather than seeking to understand how millennials function and re-adjust accordingly, most companies enforce the status quo—then suffer the ramifications of employee burnout.
As the employer, you can sidestep this avoidable trend by introducing changes that engage their untapped skills and interests. And here are some tangible starting points if you’re unsure of how those changes should look.
1. Mentorship over management
Traditional hierarchy structures have their role in the office, although not where millennials are concerned. This generation does not respond to a fixed chain-of-command and often interprets that form of stratification as micro-management. In fact, a 2016 job burnout survey found that as employees gain more control over their work, they become happier, reducing burnout.
This is especially valuable for millennials, according to Peter Economy, “The Leadership Guy” for Inc.com. He explains:
Millennials value autonomy–they want to be given an assignment and then be trusted to complete it correctly and on time. No one likes to be micromanaged–millennials least of all–and doing so is a sure way to lose their loyalty and their engagement.
While it’s beneficial to maintain the expectation of authority, millennials are most efficient when a superior coaches them, communicates and offers resources for growth.
2. Impact over income
Competitive salaries might recruit millennials to your team initially, but the driving force behind their retention is whether the job creates a sense of purpose. This generation is both informed and enthusiastic about social consciousness, and only 57 percent believe that business leaders are committed to improving society.
So what now? “It’s up to company leaders to instill balanced values into the core of the company’s culture, which consist of the three P’s: People, Planet and Prosperity,” says Ted Rollins, global eco-preneur recognized by the Inc. 500.
Businesses that support human rights, green living, public health, or community activism help millennials find meaning in their work, boosting retention among this age group. Show your support by planning company volunteer days—during the week, on company time—or allowing employees to use an extra PTO day to dedicate time to the cause they care most about.
3. Flexibility over formula
A structured work day doesn’t work for millennials. In a recent study called ‘Understand a Misunderstood Generation’, 59 percent of millennials in North America said that “flexible work hours” and “enough leisure time for my private life” were the two most important factors in work-life balance—work-life balance being another millennial driven factor in the modern work world.
Ditch that rigidity and empower millennials to finish each assignment on their terms, provided they meet deadlines. A few ideas for making flexible working hours work for your company include:
Flex time: A range of starting and stopping times are offered with a mandatory “core” part of the way where everyone is required to be in the office.
Compressed work weeks: Employees work 40 hours, but in less than five days. This usually plays out to be four 10-hour work days, with Fridays off.
Telecommuting: Employees can work full- or part-time at home, or set one day a week as an all-office work from home day.
4. Connection over contentment
“Yuppie” office settings take extreme measures to foster job satisfaction, from on-site meditation circles to boardroom ping-pong tournaments. However, most young employees aren’t inclined toward workplace distractions, instead they’re seeking development opportunities. Don’t approach millennials like children needing entertainment; charge them with adult responsibilities, so they feel connected to business goals.
Offer more responsibility, bigger projects, and greater opportunities for growth both in and out of the office. For example, instead of bringing games into the office, host a monthly speaker with a different theme each month. This allows employees to learn and grow on the company dime.
5. Integrity over success
When Deloitte asked millennials: “What are the most important values a business should follow if it is to have long-term success?” They had a clear answer. “They responded that businesses should put employees first, and they should have a solid foundation of trust and integrity. Customer care and high-quality, reliable products also ranked relatively high in importance,” explains Deloitte. Only 5 percent noted profit-focused values are important for long-term success.
To avoid issues with the millennials in your company, be transparent in your business goals and involve employees in developing them. Make employees important, ensuring their comfort and happiness within the company—after all, without them, you don’t have much of a company.
Millennials may get a bad reputation, but their attention to detail, desire to make a difference, and need for more personal time simply reflects the world they live in. Take this into account if you’re struggling to keep millennials on board. A few small changes could go a long way in impressing this age group and boosting loyalty.
About the author: Jessica Thiefels has been writing for more than 10 years and is currently a professional blogger and freelance writer. She now owns her own business and has been featured on Forbes. She’s also written for StartupNation, Manta, Glassdoor and more.