Whether it’s winning their business as consumers or recruiting the most talented ones as employees, millennials are today’s in-demand demographic. But Generation Y is also a source of anxiety amongst bosses, who are still learning how to engage and retain them.
Millennials are different, but the stereotypes associated with them aren’t always helpful says Greg Leach, an account manager at Hunter Straker. Leach is also Vice-President of Marketing and Partnership Lead at the SIPO Foundation, an organization that helps young people network, collaborate and learn skills through events and workshops, including the upcoming SIPOconference.
Leach cites a recent TIME Magazine issue, which featured the cover line “The Me, Me, Me Generation: Millennials are lazy, entitled narcissists who still live with their parents.” This negative stereotype is commonplace among managers, but Leach says it’s important to also take into the account the second bit of text on that TIME cover: “Why they’ll save us all.” Millennials are already the largest generation in the workforce, and they’ll soon make up a majority of it. Whether they like it or not, bosses are going to have to learn to work with them.
Here are three things you need to understand about millennials, and how you can use each of them to better engage and retain Generation Y.
Money doesn’t matter (as much)
Older generations were conditioned to think in terms of stuff—the homes, cars and appliances their salaries could provide. Leach says millennials are more concerned with intangible things. “Millennials are all about experiences,” he says, citing the example of patronizing Starbucks over Tim Hortons. “Am I going [so I can] pay $5 for a latte? You go there because of the experience.”
That focus on experiences over stuff translates to the incentives you provide your millennial employees. “[Companies] talk about what’ll entice people from a Generation X or Baby Boomer perspective, but millennials actually don’t care as much about the compensation,” says Leach. “They’re more willing to take less in compensation if it complements their lifestyle.”
Generation Y would rather have experiences that provide personal fulfilment instead. “Millennials are looking to be in an environment of constantly learning, trying new things, challenging themselves,” says Leach. “You need to obviously pay fair, but I think it’s all about growth opportunities. They don’t want to feel stagnant.”
What’s your why
A job is not just a way to pay the bills for the average member of Generation Y according to Leach. “They look at their job as an investment in something they’re super-passionate about,” he says.
Command-and-control is not a model for managing millennials, which is perhaps why they’ve gained a reputation for not know their place in the corporate hierarchy. “They want to speak up, they want to be heard, they want to collaborate and they want to communicate,” says Leach. “Your leaders at your organization need to be able to communicate and be fully transparent about what you’re trying to achieve.”
But it’s not enough to talk in terms of corporate imperatives like sales targets and revenue growth. Leach recommends emphasizing the broader goals of your company and the difference it’s making in the wider world.
And don’t be surprised if Generation Y employees try to weigh in on your why or disagree with your methods. What you may hear as insolence, they consider to be collaboration. “They’re not just there to be your yes-people,” says Leach. “They’re people that are going to challenge the norm and I think people need to be open to that two-way dialogue.”
Loyalty is temporary
Job-hopping is a particularly millennial phenomenon, but it’s not entirely their fault says Leach. “There’s not a loyalty to the organization because they don’t see it back,” he says. “They’re trying to watch out for themselves: How can I set myself up long-term, because the days of working 30 years for one organization [are gone].”
That doesn’t mean there’s no way to retain Generation Y employees. Build a collaborative organization in which millennials feel they can be heard and advance, and they’re more likely to stick with you than not. “You need to accommodate to what they’re looking for, and if you can build [that] environment then you will be able to attract that talent.”
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