At some point, every company has witnessed employees diving off the side of the ship and into the waters of possibility. It's a shame when it happens, but in many cases, it's inevitable. That doesn't mean your company has to lose all your staff to that Pied Piper. If you truly value your employees (and your bottom line certainly should), you will go to great lengths to retain them.
This has never been more relevant with the flood of Millennials coming into the job market. With a vast number of younger employees who may jump ship at the first sign of discontent, you need strategies to avoid this. I have 10 suggestions that may help keep your younger staff members from bailing out.
1: Incorporate BYOD
Millennials love their technology. So much so, that tech is practically grafted to their hands. Encourage those employees to bring in their devices and allow them on your network. Yes, you should create a policy for this, but don't lock down everything so that when they bring in their devices, they can hardly use them. The idea is to give the younger employees enough freedom to do things their way (while still adhering to your policies). Being able to use their personal hardware will further this cause.
2: Offer perks associated with their generation
The new wave of employees coming into the workforce isn't what you're used to. They aren't going to look at 401(k), insurance, company cars, and other old-school perks the way older generations did. Instead, you need to get in touch with what their generation finds motivating. Offering a shorter workweek over a raise might be one of the best routes you can take with the younger work force.
3: Allow/encourage more telecommuting
Home and work/life balance are incredibly important. Millennials flourish in their own environment. Comfort is key to them, and to get the most productivity and as much loyalty as possible from them, you need to allow them the option of telecommuting.
4: Don't lock them down
If there's one thing the young generation hates more than having their music taken from them, it's being locked down. Millennials often desire freedom over stability. Even going as far as threatening their jobs won't change the game. Of course, this doesn't mean you should give them full run of the place. Instead, pick your battles and let them feel like they have enough freedom to breathe. This might go against what you've been taught, but that small amount of freedom will go a long, long way with younger employees.
5: Get social
If you can't beat 'em, join 'em. I'm not talking about your business having a social presence. I'm talking about allowing your employees to use social networking tools. Let them get on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest, and more. This will keep morale up and let them know you are in tune with their needs. Besides, even if you clamp down on your network, they'll find a way. Why not give them that freedom (see above) instead of making them find ways around the rules of "The man"?
6: Loosen the dress code
I know, it sounds like you're going to have to strip the very idea of "professionalism" from your business. The thing is, professionalism has evolved over the years, and it's important (on many levels) to stay aligned with that evolution. The new generation of employees will walk in, disagree with how you expect them to dress, and walk out. Instead of fighting this losing battle, don't hold your employees to a rigid dress code. Not only will you wind up with happier employees (who are more willing to remain under your employ), you will find them much more productive.
7: Hire other young employees
Don't completely surround your new young workers with a crew of older employees. Instead, hire in complementary ages. This will this keep your business fresh, and it will let your employees know that their needs matter. Surround your new stars with some co-workers their own age and they'll be far more willing to hang around, thanks to a more enjoyable work environment.
8: Allow them to move up on their terms
The new generation doesn't care much about promotions and pay grades. They care about flexibility, freedom, and fun. Give them the opportunity to advance in your company but don't make it a requirement. When you think employees are ready to move up the ladder, let them know. But let them decide when (and if) they want to make that move. Keep everything as flexible as possible.
9: Provide constant feedback
These younger workers are used to a lot of feedback -- including a lot of positive feedback. They've been taught that everyone is a winner. That makes it a huge challenge in the workplace, but it's something that has been ingrained in them. However, even with that constant stream of positive feedback, you can still offer constructive criticism to make sure they're learning what they need to know.
10: Make work life fun
If work isn't an enjoyable experience, they won't hang around. They have audacity enough to keep walking away from jobs until they find the one that fits their needs the best. That means the old salt mine must channel the dot-com age and bring a bit of fun into the workplace. No, you don't have to take your employees out for drinks or to see movies. But avoid micromanaging, clamping down the vise on the humor, and stopping friendly chit chat. Those employees need to feel the freedom to interact -- and not just about work-related topics.
It may sound as if the only way to retain younger employees is to let them run your company. Not so. You just have to manage them with an understanding that their remaining with your company is contingent on your meeting them halfway -- more so than you are used to. You will have to bend the standard rules and let loose the idea that the old guard's way is the only way. Take these bits of advice and those Millennials will stay with your company much longer.
- We're not what you think: Debunking the myths about Millennials
- Five tips for bridging the gap between Millennials and IT
- Five ways to manage the team of tomorrow
Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website getjackd.net.