After Hours

10 things you can do to keep your Millennials on board

Millennials have different expectations from previous generations -- and that requires some flexible management strategies if you want them to stick around.

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.

Balancing act

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.

Additional reading

About

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.

33 comments
grh
grh

....so, any questions you would like to ask? Err (text, text, text) hold on like (text, text, text) er yeah, like (DAAAADAAAAA dude you have a MeSSSAGGEE!!!!!!) cool.like..that's awesome (text, text, text)..er yeah like can I work from bed like somedays yeah thadad be like cool all my (text, text, text, text) friends do that, an is there a chillin area with like wifi an stuff like you know like free coke and that, they have like (text, text, text,) pool tables at my mates firm like yeah is awsome, have you got that here?.............

RMSx32767
RMSx32767

The mantra they have embraced, encouraged by parents, is "it's all about ME". The "MEllenials" as a group are no more, or less, technically adept than previous generations. They simply spend (waste?) more time with it, usually listening to music, watching video, or texting friends, rather than using it as a tool to increase their knowledge.

NickP2012
NickP2012

I like this a lot the facts are right on

jkameleon
jkameleon

When the next leg of economic depression comes around, you'll have to get rid of them anyway.

TRgscratch
TRgscratch

but the response to every one of these "how to keep your employees" is at 8% unemployment (in the U.S.), I'll treat them however I want, or just outsource, and forget about them

phil
phil

This attitude doesn't encourage responsible behavior. It's the same policy that was tried by rewarding children for failure under the guise that the attempt itself was good enough. Allowing a different set of rules based on generational expectations comes alarmingly close to crossing the Federal guidelines against age discrimination. If BYOD and Social Networking is encouraged on company time then you would have to allow older workers to bring their golf clubs to work and get paid to play golf, and I would insist that I be allowed to bring my skiis to work and get paid to go skiing. What employer thinks they can succeed in a business environment by encouraging employees to chat on Facebook, Browse, and give friends priority over business while on company time. A company needs to meet the bottom line to succeed and continue its operation - it’s called “work” for a reason.

cybershooters
cybershooters

Not on #1, #4 and #5. It's just not practical. I understand the reasoning behind saying it but they're there to work, not dick around with Twitter on their whatever device. Don't agree with #2 either, benefits are important, unless you're too dense not to know this, in which case you aren't that important of an employee. In any event in a few years time there will be an enormous labor crunch, so they're going to be too busy working to be arguing about their iPad.

grh
grh

Well I am of the humble opinion that we want grown ups in the workplace. This all reminds me of the time when teachers donned romper-type suits and got down and dirty with the children and wanted to be called 'John' or 'Mary' and 'be friends' rather than Teacher- Pupil. I suppose there are companies that think bright-primary-coloured bean bags and 'chill-out' areas and being Facebook-Twitter-et-al friendly is the way to go. Good luck to them. What will that company be like when the 'coddled' generation is in the driving seat? Romper-suits and playing in the lifts and chunky crayons to be 'expressive' on the walls I suppose. We need to have a grown-up approach to this; young people, and I was one once, need to understand that the workplace is not an extension of kindergarten; college-campus-capers and rag-days have no real place there. Rather than dumbing down (haven't the schools and TV done enough of that already) and 'dealing with' Tommy's 'I'm leaving' tantrums and pandering; shouldn't we be showing them respect and treating them like the adults they think they are? Of course workplaces can and should move with the techonolgy and make use of it if it does make a difference to productivity and efficiency etc., and of course coming to work should be a good experience; but let's not forget that we are there to do a job of work not to play. If the prospective employee does not like the sound of the company because there is not enough 'playtime' and toys I guess they can go elsewhere.

jsan2424
jsan2424

Just direct deposit thier pay and hope that if they are in a good mood they will do something nice in return. If not, we can blame ourselves for not doing enough for them. Sheesh.

skye_bowen
skye_bowen

One thing missing from most of these 'be flexible' discussions is salary. I for one, wanted to be a systems admin ever since I was bout 12 years old. I don't mind the long hours, or irregular schedule, or assanine management expectations, and ridiculously short delivery expectations. What I don't like is the expectation that I should spend 60 - 70 hours a week working for a company that pays me for 37-1/2 hours. No O/T, no bonuses, just an offer of imaginary lieu time that is always just out of grasp. That is why I will never be an employee again. I quit, got my lieu time, and took a contract where I get paid a good wage for all time worked.

mgrier
mgrier

I take a different approach: 1. Here's your desk, sit here, be on time, don't leave early, etc. 2. This is your task, do it and do it right, see me if you need help 3. You're not the center of the universe, our clients are 4. If none of this suits you please quit and go elsewhere, because I am not about to coddle you - grow up

waltersokyrko
waltersokyrko

These ideas are good for everyone, not just for millennials. If a company tries to differnetiate between new hires and old hires, that company will get into trouble, as it should. One thing not mentioned is be willing to change or to provide rational reasons why proposed change will not work. If someone (millennial or older) proposes an improvement and management says that we are not implementing the improvement because it is different from what we did in the past, get ready for unhappy employees who will eventually leave. Then management wonders why all the good employees leave.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

I'll have any and all of these please. From what I understand the desire for BYOD crosses generations anyway. The only practical retention policy is you treat your people with respect. Anything else is self serving drivel to disguise the fact that you have none for them. I wasn't as clued in back then as I am now, but If I was told, If you stay, you can buy your own PC so you use it for our needs, as long as you are very careful not to do anything that it might turn out that you shouldn't have for your self on your own device. Not even my once youthful naivety would have swallowed that one.

bobc4012
bobc4012

A few years back, I worked for a major company and new hires were being brought in at higher salaries than those who had 2 or 3 of experience. It was also noticed by more senior people that some of the new hires were getting "perks" or preferences they weren't getting. The company felt that those who had been there for a couple or more years would have ties to keep them there (home ownership, children, etc.). This was not good for morale and generated a lot of anti-company chatter. Of course, the junior employees who had no ties left for greener pastures, the new hires tended to get their experience and left and the senior people had to pick up the workload, which generated more bad morale and chatter. The company eventually realized the error of its ways and reset policy on new hires. Unfortunately, a lot of damage had already been done.

Worth2Cents
Worth2Cents

The company I work for is going through this transition as the older workers are reitring in droves, but the new hires tended to want to leave in herds, as well. HR had to do something...FAST!! The big problem here, wasn't finding willing workers, but keeping the good ones. As soon as they get trained and garnered a little experience, they would leave for a couople of thousand more a year. HR tried incentives like signing bonuses, termed contracts, fancy titles, flex times, etc. Nothing really seemed to work, until the surveys started going out asking for opinions and ideas. Based on feedback, the company pretty much allows everything on this list. Policies were put in place, in order to keep things from getting too wild, but we have earned Computerworld's 100 Best Places to Work In IT for several years in a row, now. Our CIO has earned similar honors, too. IT went from a "necessary business expense," to a strategic business partner. Now, it's nothing for a "new hire" to have been here for 5, 8, or 10 years. (Compared to the old-timers' 35 and 40 years!!)

qazolat
qazolat

Jack, I've worked with all sorts of folk over my 24 year IT career, and I have to say that I don't recognise the generalised picture you are painting of the latest lot. However, just because I haven't seen it, doesn't mean it isn’t so. Unfortunately, I can't check the veracity of a single one of your claims, because you provide no source references (dodgy methodologies and lack of peer review notwithstanding). I guess until there's even a modicum of proof, I won't be advising any department head or board member within our company to "bend the standard rules". We already try to make our workplace a fun and productive environment for all, with a relaxed dress code for non-customer facing staff and options for telecommuting where appropriate. However, we simply can't afford to respond to the non-existent stimuli of the "millennial generation" demands, no matter how much we are exhorted to by on-line commentators.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

I'm not a manager, don't work directly with many young people, and don't have any non-work interaction with them at all. To my inexperienced ear, most of these suggestions sound like coddling. I'll wait and see what the feedback is, especially from those on either side of the manager / managed relationship.

seannyob
seannyob

While some of what you say here may be valuable to Baby Boom management who are completely out of touch, Jack, I fear that there are some dangerous ideas in this article, ideas that, if taken to their conclusion, might encourage practices that are discriminatory towards younger workers. Millennials--and the generations of workers before and after them--are absolutely concerned with their pay grade, benefits packages, and opportunity for advancement. They're just quick, and realize that in this economy, they may not have much to bargain with by way of experience. Furthermore, they know the inherent discrimination in hiring they face due to their youth, and so also realize that they are often viewed as "cheap labor," despite their advanced skills. They understand that they will often be marginalized when placed next to older workers (with identical skill sets) whose financial needs are perceived as "more critical," as in, those who have mortgages and families (and by families, I mean children). So, very often, young take what they can get in this business environment. But make no mistake: this American generation is as ambitious as any other, if (as history has repeatedly shown) slightly more progressive. It was always thus, and (probably) always thus will be. If hiring & firing managers want to embrace the younger generation, they should pay them what they are worth, based on the skills that they bring to the team, and not treat them as though they are teenage children. Youth is an asset, particularly when mixed with the asset of experience.

mark1408
mark1408

As someone else here has said, everyone needs respect. Just because the labour (yes, I'm British) market's difficult doesn't mean we should treat people badly.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

There's a skills shortage you know :( :( Note I'm english. This is called irony, just in case.

Velocitydreamer
Velocitydreamer

... couldn't agree more. I work for my employer, not the other way around. I come to work to work, not putz around on my phone and be pampered. Time to lean, time to clean sort of attitude. If you don't have that work ethic, then you will be replaced by someone who does, end of story.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

1. This is my desk, I don't care if you got in before me, move. If I leave early you can sit at it but don't move any of my stuff, and leave it as tidy as it was. 2. This is my task, I'm doing it, I have the last definition of right and I certainly don't need help about the technical bits from some manager. 3. My family is my centre of everything, you are barely in the same galaxy. 4. If all of this doesn't suit start looking for a replacement, you are going to need one. Regards Pre-millenial kid. :D

n.gurr
n.gurr

in your opinion? Was not the problem more that the experienced workers taken for granted? I was very interested to see you use the reset phrase here, instead of things getting better for all, it seems, the new hires were treated less well to maintain the status quo. Or did they also invest in the existing staff? I hope this comes out sounding like I am interested - it is meant to.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

to strategic partner wasn't on the list. I did, maybe it's because I'm old. So Tony you can sit on beanbag and use your Iphone to work, or you can become a stragegic part of the business. Hmm hard choice! Might be me, but I suspect that the way IT was viewed had a far bigger impact on retention than a grab bag of gimmicks.

bkindle
bkindle

I felt that way too. I care about a company match IRA (401k), insurance. I care to work for a company that is doing well and growing. I have always flourished when working with the older generation and learned a lot more too, it's helped me grow professionally. The problem with my generation is that of them automatically assume old means wrong, and refuse to allow themselves to learn under the tutelage of the older, experienced professional.

kmthom
kmthom

If you pay people (young or old) a fair wage and treat them well; you'd be surprised at how well they "jump in" to make the business better. Look at WalMart...have you ever met a cashier at WalMart that looked happy and content to be there? I realize that being a cashier doesn't exactly qualify as a professional position, but the same rules apply. WalMart treats their employees like garbage; and in return they get garbage right back. Most employees only work as hard as you pay them, or get fed up and quit after a few weeks. Here is another real world example: I worked for Walgreens for nearly 10 years before getting laid off last year. (Thanks!) I was a pharmacy technician. I took care of medications, made compound drugs, and was basically a geriatric punching bag for the masses. At the time of my being laid off my hourly pay-rate was ~$13.50 NO OVERTIME ALLOWED. Nearly everyone I knew that had my same job title was looking to find something else. Due to the job market though, it was tough unless you had an education in a specific field - at least if you wanted to make more money. Adding onto this, Walgreens treats their employees like criminals and "Corporate" is constantly on your back about every little thing. Now, look at Costco. Right before I left, a good friend of mine was hired as pharmacy manager for our local store. Costco STARTS their pharmacy techs (same job as me) at $12.50/hourly. Ramping up to $25.00/hourly after only 5 years!! That's nearly 40K a year with no college education...needless to say, getting in was very hard. Nobody wanted to quit, haha. I can see the point of this article - I guess there are members of my generation who would rather work 4 days a week than receive a 401K...However, I think it is grossly inaccurate to assume that giving "young people" an extra day off is the cure-all for them jumping ship. Pay them. Pay them and offer opportunities for advancement. Over time, those "young people" will grow to be "old(er) people" who are STILL working hard for you. :-) -=K=-

jkameleon
jkameleon

Observe wear indicators carefully, replace as necessary.

jkameleon
jkameleon

As a mater of fact, I don't believe it. I believe only salary figures, and they say there's no skill shortage.

bobc4012
bobc4012

they gave increases to those who had been there for 2 or 3 years to pay them the same as the new hires. The "longer tenured" employees got "zip, nada" - just a bunch of "attaboys". Of course, while welcoming the increases, those with 2 or 3 years still felt screwed because new hires were getting the same pay with no experience. Eventually demand for new hires slowed as did the entry level compensation. As for senior people, most were either married with children, owned a home or other factors which made leaving a tough decision for them and management took full advantage of this.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

I would think younger workers would be more interested in IRAs and 401Ks than my generation, not less. We stand a good chance of getting at least something out of Social Security. If I was under thirty, my retirement plans would assume SS won't exist when I'm ready to quit working.

jkameleon
jkameleon

Type "it/ict/tech skill/talent/staff shortage/crisis/chrunch", and you'll get at least a couple of 10 hits, regardless of economic situation. It's interesting to combine the above with words like "career", "young people", and "pipeline". I'm trying to develop investment strategy on NASDAQ based on shortage shouting. I've noticed that in the past, it was always the loudest about 6-12 months before recession. This pattern is getting kinda irregular lately, though. That 8% you've mentioned before... yeah, some of them can do IT, but they never posses the exact skill set needed by employers.