Despite what many employers say about millennials being entitled, impatient and lacking a work ethic, I adore and admire millennials—as people, children, friends, relatives, community members, business partners, coworkers and especially team members.
In my experience at Dixon Schwabl, the millennials I work with are driven to make a difference in the world and their world at work. They are hard-working, loyal, mission-motivated (rather than paycheck-motivated) and up for meaningful challenges. What’s not to love about that?
My advice: When you find and recruit one of these gems, do everything you can to keep them for the long-haul. But how?
As a generation, millennials are famous for job-hopping and being huge flight risks: 60 percent looked for a new position and 21 percent changed jobs in 2016, according to a Gallup survey. That’s three times greater than the general workforce. Millennials are perfectly comfortable quitting a job that’s not a perfect fit—without looking back or experiencing regret, even after a short stint.
Why are they willing to take those chances? It’s not because they’re impulsive or demanding. It’s because:
1) Many millennials will keep looking until they land a job that closely matches their style, personality and goals—a place where they can let their colors shine and make a real difference while staying true to their values.
2) Millennials don’t believe employers’ promises about opportunities for training, development, promotions and raises in the future in exchange for hard work for low pay in the present. Rather, they feel like a commodity. They’re convinced their employer might cut them loose at any time and that promised raises, promotions and development opportunities will never materialize.
So while millennials may come across as lazy or demanding, perhaps they really are just practical and realistic. Each time they jump jobs, they do so by choice and plan. They gain the cachet of having greater experience and value for their next employer and can command greater pay, benefits and respect. And they call the shots.
With this new perspective on millennials, you may be more interested in recruiting them to your team. Again, the question is: How? Here’s the answer.
To attract millennials—and keep them—you need to have a clear, identifiable company culture and image that reflect qualities that resonate with millennials, specifically characteristics like being reliable, honest, pioneering, bold, innovative, philanthropic, community-oriented and trustworthy.
I intentionally put trustworthy last, so you’ll remember it first. More than anything, a trusting environment creates the foundation of culture that breeds longevity in the workplace.
Trust is attractive and sticky
Everyone wants to work in a trusting environment, and millennials even more than average: 85 percent of millennials employed at companies on Great Place to Work’s 2017 Best Workplaces for Millennials list—all companies that earn high scores for trust—plan to stick around at their workplace for the long haul. And that’s much higher than the national average.
Here are some tips from the online employment firm Monster for building trust in the workplace:
Treat everyone equally, regardless of their work experience, background or position in the company. Invite ideas and suggestions from everyone.
Follow through and be generous with development opportunities, raises, promotions and tangible recognition of success. Invest in your people.
Be honest, of course, and that includes sharing almost all information, rather than withholding painful truths. But also…
Be respectful and use common sense about what to share. Don’t share employee, company, vendor or competitor personal or proprietary information. And don’t be honest to the point of creating distrust by hurting people or businesses. At the same time…
Minimize secrets. They spark distrust.
Model and expect integrity by being truthful in your actions as well as your words: Don’t fudge numbers on expense reports and taxes, pilfer office supplies or pad time sheets.
Focus on solutions rather than problems and blame.
Lower your guard, remain open and don’t be defensive when criticized. Listen, welcome and act on constructive criticism you receive.
Communication is connection
In addition to seeking out work environments they can trust, millennials crave frequent two-way feedback to validate their work and ideas, as well as to reassure them that their thinking is included in decisions by leaders.
So look for opportunities to engage and connect personally. Insist that even C-suite executives spend time with all employees. Be curious about what employees have to say and who they are as people, not just as staff members. By taking the time to get to know them individually, you show you appreciate what makes each employee different and how those differences make your company stronger.
At Dixon Schwabl, our CEO and president (full disclosure: That’s me and Mike Schwabl) take two or three team members out to breakfast or lunch every week to talk about anything and everything under the sun—and then, specifically, to learn how we can help them shine, fulfill their aspirations, and feel they are making meaningful contributions at work and in the community. We rotate through the agency until we’ve dined with everyone, and then start over again.
Because ultimately, when you communicate effectively with all team members, you show you value their smarts, individuality, talents and contributions. And that goes a long way toward encouraging them to stay with your company.
According to Great Place to Work, a company’s ability to manage change, act nimbly and be innovative is eight times greater when they pay attention to and treat millennials as people and not just cogs in a machine. And part of that means understanding and accepting differences without expecting blind allegiance and conformity.
To help you communicate with millennials, remember that they respond better to specific styles of communication, so try to deliver information visually with videos and digital presentations, for example. And consider reaching out with a text or IM first, then email, before a phone call or in-person meeting.
Our differences make us great
As part of the value they place on equality, millennials appreciate and expect diversity of thought and style as much as religion and nationality. To keep them engaged, don’t require conformity, especially with strict dress codes or inflexible hours of operation. Stay flexible and understanding about individual preferences as long as they don’t impact productivity. This shows your “diversity” talk is more than just talk, and it reinforces a culture of trust.
If your culture truly is built on trust, you will attract employees, including millennials, who share your values. When values are aligned, people are more likely to feel comfortable, satisfied and rewarded at work. And that means they’ll be more likely to stay long and work hard.
Can’t ask for more than that!
Lauren Dixon is CEO of Dixon Schwabl Inc., a marketing communications firm, which has been honored as a best place to work.