How to Retain Millennials

They don't like emails, they expect flexibility and they don't always respond to traditional incentives. So how do you keep Gen Y engaged?

Written by Gah Bird
Don’t Be Afraid of Gen Y: Millennials Could Be Your Greatest Asset

As one of the largest demographic groups since the baby boomers, Millennials (or Gen Y) are changing the business landscape. It’s estimated that Millennials will be roughly 75% of the global workforce by 2030. If you want a glimpse into the future of work, look no further than the call centre industry where, in some locations, almost 80% of the workforce is between 22 to 33 years old.

A crucial component of a good customer experience is having frontline employees that are satisfied at work and beyond. So, we tailored the employee retention and engagement practices at our call centres to fit Gen Y workers.

Here’s how:

Communicate in ways that Gen Y understands

Whereas email was the communication tool for Gen X, Gen Y often favours social media and instant messaging. Millennials are less likely than other generations to read long messages with large, unbroken blocks of text. Make sure you put the key information up-front in the message title and/or first sentence.

Take it a step further and consider building an internal social network just for your employees. TELUS International is building an internal network called T.Life that will let team members view job postings, swap schedules, post comments and even order a coffee to their desk. An added benefit: employees can share information quickly and easily via an internal social network while still preserving company policies and privacy.

More flexibility and control

Millennials expect more flexibility in their working life than previous generations. An internal social network can help with that in a couple of ways:

  • Involve employees in decision making. One of the greatest advantages of social media is its ability to connect decision makers with agents on the frontlines. Frontline input can be invaluable for shaping and streamlining your company’s operations.
  • Give employees the flexibility to change their schedules. In the call centre world, scheduling is a big driver of agent attrition. Our social network allows agents to swap shifts without their supervisor’s approval€“a practice that not only delivers more workplace satisfaction, but also makes scheduling more efficient.
  • Personalize performance tracking. Seasoned top performers may do well with rigid, ambitious performance targets, but the rest of the workforce may feel disillusioned with a one-size-fits-all goal. Where possible, it’s important for Millennials to track their personal performance goals in real-time. That feeling of instant feedback often leads to better customer service delivery as Millennials are keen to learn and do better with each customer interaction.

Read: 6 Steps to Discovering How Engaged Your Staff Really Is

Improved retention

Millenials don’t just bring new communication methods to the workplace€“they also expect more personal fulfillment there. A modern employer needs to give employees the opportunities and the tools to develop a satisfying work-life balance, and a work environment that provides personal satisfaction.

A few specific examples of the types of things that make Gen Y feel fulfilled:

  • A sense of freedom. Our team members often shift from full-time to part-time, since in some locations, 60% to 65% of our staff are studying for a degree. Companies need to consider the life goals and priorities of their Gen Y workers. We team members the chance to attend university courses on-site at subsidized costs.
  • A feeling of family. Family is a top priority for Millennials, so consider offering extended medical, life and health insurance for not just your team members and their families, but for their extended families. It’s an integral way to give back to employees and show them they’re valued in the company. The feeling of family should be continued in the workplace, too, with events that let employees socialize.
  • A sense of purpose. Even more than other generations, Millennials are motivated to give back to their communities. Corporate Social Responsibility programs will give give them the chance to do just that. Provide your employees with the opportunities to volunteer for a worthy cause and you just might be overwhelmed by how appreciative they are of you as an employer.
  • New types of incentives. When your employees perform well, reward them as a team rather than by singling out top-performing individuals. Our research has shown that Millennials behave more collaboratively than other more individualistic generations, such as Gen X.

The quandary of promoting Millennials

In other industries, young employees may have to work years to become a team leader or supervisor, but it’s relatively easy for a good junior worker in the customer service industry to be promoted quickly. While this allows young employees to shine at an early stage, it also has its downside. Millennials who have achieved a team lead position often expect to be promoted to the next level just as quickly, and may become frustrated when that doesn’t happen. The key is to set clear career expectations from the get-go, and provide opportunities for employees to develop their skills and knowledge within their current positions.

Read: The Gen Y Whisperer

Problem solved

Call centres have a history of high rates of attrition. Concerned that the emergence of a younger workforce would only exacerbate the problem, we realized that we needed to adapt our business processes to the next generation, not expect Gen Y to adapt to existing ways.

While a continual work in progress, transforming several key areas of our business has led to higher employee satisfaction, better customer service and happier, satisfied clients. As a result, we have one of the lowest attrition rates in the customer service outsourcing business€“50% below the industry average in some cases. Learning to engage and retain Millennials has played a big role in that success.

Gah Bird is vice-president at Telus International, an arm of Telus that provides call-centre outsourcing. Read her story on How to Engage Millenials

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Originally appeared on PROFITguide.com