Word cloud highlighting the value millennials have in the modern workforce

Engaging & Retaining the Millennial Workforce

According to a 2014 Elance-oDesk, Inc. and Millennial Branding study (“The 2015 Millennial Majority Workforce”) as well as US Bureau of Labor Statistics’ predictions, millennials will represent the majority of the workforce by 2015 and make up 75% of personnel by 2030. Who are millennials, and what should hiring professionals know about them?

Birth years range depending on whose definition you come across, though for the most part, this demographic is defined as individuals born sometime between the mid-80s and early 2000s. The oldest of the millennials are now entering their 30s, with the other end preparing to graduate from high school in a few years. “The 2015 Millennial Majority Workforce” reported that 28% of employed millennials are at a management level already, and 75% of them aim to be in management roles within the next 10 years.

Of the HR professionals surveyed for the study, 53% reported having difficulty finding and retaining millennials. To successfully engage this workforce, it’s important to know what makes them tick (and what ticks them off). While overgeneralizations of any generation can be harmful, and there are always exceptions, here are a few commonly observed traits of this age group to consider:

  • Addicted to the Latest & Greatest Technology: Millennials were raised with technology and are comfortable with (if not dependent upon) being constantly connected. As Alastair Mitchell stated in his Wired article, “The Rise of the Millennial Workforce,” this generation “won’t put up with poor enterprise technology” and will seek out solutions on their own. On a positive side, the hyper-connected millennial won’t scoff at the idea of using technology to work remotely or collaborate with coworkers during non-traditional work hours.
  • Crave Recognition: Whether you believe this is a positive or negative trait, millennials are used to receiving constant encouragement from their parents, teachers, coaches, etc. Suzanne Robert, author of “‘Millennial’ Learning: On Demand Strategies for Generation X and Beyond,” stated, “They want instant feedback and rewards, so be sure to let them apply new knowledge immediately, and let them know how well they've performed.” Don’t be surprised if something seemingly trivial like a quick “atta boy” at your next companywide meeting results in increased engagement.
  • Desire Creativity & Responsibility: Tied closely to recognition, this generation excels when they have a sense of ownership over their work and are trusted to find their own way to get the job done. Supervisors must help millennials “see the big picture” and “let them run with it.” It’s not that millennials have no work ethic – as Cam Marston put it in “Myths About Millennials” – they have a “self-centered work ethic.”
  • Demand Flexibility & Work/Life Balance: Having grown up with the constant of afterschool programs (sports, bands, volunteering, etc.), millennials put a lot of stock in extracurricular activities. So much so that, according to Access Development, 40% of them would take less pay for more freedom and flexibility. Furthermore, as tech-oriented workers who can connect from anywhere, the idea of being chained to a desk from 9 to 5 to get the job done seems obsolete.

Millennials are highly adaptable and aren’t afraid of change – and that includes finding new employment at any time. Job loyalty is a thing of the past. To successfully retain this demographic, positioning yourself as an “employer of choice” and offering a creative, tech-savvy, and flexible work environment will be essential.

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Elance-oDesk— HR Professionals Say Millennials Surpass Prior Generations

Alastair Mitchell— The Rise of the Millennial Workforce

Cam Marston— Myths About Millennials

Brandon Carter— What Millennials Want (in the Workplace): More Flexibility

Suzanne Rober— "Millennial" Learning - On Demand Strategies for Generation X and Beyond

By Natalie Winzer, iHire | September 01, 2016