Well folks, the numbers are in and it appears that by the year 2025, millennials will make up 75 percent of the labor market. This fact might incite some mixed emotions. On one hand, millennials are known for being the most creative and progressive; on the other hand, they have also been labeled the “job hopping generation.” A sweet and sour combination for most startup owners.
Of course we want to hire the brightest, most inventive people who are going to ask the tough questions and offer a relentless focus on creating the best product, but we also want to make sure that they don’t quit in a week! Top HR Directors across the country are trying to find a solution to this formula as we speak. And the good news is, millennials are not as complicated as some make them out to be and actually value strong human connections – way more so than they’re ever given credit for.
So with that in mind, here are five fundamental ways to create a millennial-friendly work environment that will help your startup retain the best of Generation Y:
1. Give them challenges
Millennials have grown up with technology and are generally inspired by all things entrepreneurial. Don’t let them feel limited by their job position, or like there’s no room for growth. Bright minds thrive off the possibility of challenge. It’s important that you sit down with your employees and ask them in what direction they would like to develop. If yours is a startup or small firm, let them know they can mold the position around their interests. Give them initiatives to lead an exciting, original project that they can take responsibility (and credit) for. Being at the cutting-edge of innovation and holding the reins is far more enticing than just another number in a multinational.
2. Show them possibilities
You already know by now that it’s unlikely you’ll still have the same team surrounding you in ten years’ time. That’s just the changing face of the job market. But if you want to hang on to the brightest people, make sure you’re clear about the exciting possibilities and room for career development in your company. Millennial employees didn’t study their undergrads and MBAs just to finish their education in your company.
As Kelvin Boon, CEO of Boon Infotech explains: “Keeping their skill set current ranks very high in the Millennial generation. Hands on experience is probably the best way to bring Millennials onboard with company projects.” What’s the best way to do this? Real life, involvement in important company projects and on-the-job training. Give them a taste of what advancement to the next level feels like. Show them the sky’s the limit if they stay with you.
3. Get around a cause
Millennials are known for their inability to comprehend a world without technology and their constant need to be connected. But there’s a lesser known detail about this complex demographic that may have escaped you. Millennials are socially responsible and look to work for companies that have strong beliefs and do good in the world. A Stanford Graduate School of Business study showed that 90 percent of students in the US and Europe aspired to work for companies committed to being socially responsible.
That doesn’t mean simply picking a random cause and donating to it once a year as a tax right-off. Millennials demand transparency. So, if you don’t have one already, pick a cause that aligns with your company culture and value. Into education? Set up a program to work with schools in developing countries. Make industrial products? Offset your footprint by supporting companies working to reduce the effects of climate change.
4. Provide the right training
This is an all too often over-looked element in employer / employee success. While it’s true that Millennials like a challenge, throwing them in at the deep end without a safety net will only provoke anxiety – and possibly accidents. Lost sales or wiping your server clean. Around half of all security incidents and data breaches in the US happen because of employee negligence. So, don’t just assume that your employees know how to do the job, work a certain software, or complex piece of machinery.
“I’ve seen a lot of employers that assume that their employees know how to deal with a certain piece of machinery or that their written instructions on how to do so are clear. That’s such a dangerous gamble – you’ll never know if you guessed right until they’re in an emergency situation, or suffer an injury in the workplace,” says Trey Greene, President and CEO of SafetySkills, a competency-based online safety training for enterprises. “Additionally, even if everyone is on the same page, hammering home proper protocol will help teammates keep each other safe when one of them is distracted, coming down with a cold, or otherwise not performing at their best.”
Your employees will stay on with you if they feel successful; the way to accomplish that is to set them up for success through the right training.
5. Show a little appreciation
It might sound simple, and that’s because it is. But everyone likes to feel appreciated in the workplace and at home. Give credit where credit’s due and regular, constructive feedback. There’s nothing worse than working hard on a project and crafting a lengthy presentation or email, only to have it met with a radio silence. That translates into a major fail. Especially in the Millennial mind that’s used to constant feedback, likes and comments from peers.
Trying giving them a little flexibility too. Don’t let your employees feel like you’re breathing down their necks. Creating an environment of trust is vital. Give them flexible days where they can work from home. The average worker would take an 8 percent pay cut just to be able to do this. Some would even rescind as much as 21 percent to avoid the subway or rush hour traffic.
Above all, if you want to keep your employees, be sure to remember that they are people first and employees second. Everyone likes to feel secure, fit in and receive the esteem of their peers – just ask Maslow. But your Millennial employees have come to expect those things as standard, along with health insurance and vacation time. So develop some exciting opportunities. Give hands-on (and appropriate) training, and provide flexible solutions to keep them motivated and keep them working for you.
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.