Jennifer Deal is all about the data. She despises assumptions and decisions made by anecdote. Reading about generational differences — and how disruptive Millennials are to our workplaces — she always asks, where’s the research?

With this inquisitive view, Deal — a CCL senior research scientist — and Alec Levenson of the University of Southern California have authored a new book, What Millennials Want from Work. The book is based on survey data from more than 25,000 Millennials from 22 countries and more than 300 organizations, plus 29,000 people from other generations from the same organizations.

One finding that should have HR leaders taking notice is that Millennials are both committed to their jobs:

  • 69% are satisfied with their job
  • 76% say they like working for their current organization
  • 49% say they would be happy to spend the rest of their career with their current organization

and willing to leave:

  • 30% are looking for a new job right now.

Contrary to the stereotype, Millennials don’t prefer changing organizations every few years. In fact, Millennials would like to stay for a long time. They want to learn, grow, and become leaders in their organizations.

Even so, HR leaders should understand that current satisfaction doesn’t mean Millennials aren’t looking or willing to make a change.

“Millennials, like everyone else, leave because they can get something better elsewhere,” says Deal.

Some Millennials are trying to escape a situation they don’t like — a bad boss, office politics. Or, they feel overloaded and underpaid for the work they are doing. Other Millennials are looking to “level up” to a better situation even if they are generally satisfied with their current situation.

“Level up is computer gaming language for moving to a higher level so you have access to better options in the game,” explains Deal. “Similarly, Millennials will look for a new job that raises some aspect of their life to a higher level.”

Organizations that see retaining talent as a strategic advantage need to be aware of this desire to “level up,” and provide options for employees who have this need.

To effectively attract, retain and engage Millennials, organizations should pay attention to 3 dimensions:

  • The people. Friends, mentors, team and boss are all part of the package. Create an environment so Millennials can develop friendships. Be sure managers and mentors are trained and have time to connect and build relationships. If Millennials don’t feel they have a community at work, they are more likely to go elsewhere.
  • The work. For Millennials, what they do and how they do it is critical to their workplace experience. Structure work so that it’s interesting and meaningful, and enables them to enjoy a balanced life.
  • The opportunities. Millennials worry that they could stagnate and won’t be competitive in the job market. Make sure to provide them with the right opportunities, including enough feedback, development and compensation for them to feel they are continuing to progress even as they stay with the same organization.

While the details of how they live their lives are different everywhere, Millennials are remarkably similar around the world. Organizations that provide the working conditions Millennials crave will benefit from a generation that is willing to work hard and stay long term.

How are you making sure Millennials in your organization keep working hard for you and not for someone else?

4 thoughts on “3 Ways to Engage, Attract, and Retain Millennials

  1. Ara Toroyan says:

    In some cases it is unrealistic to give Millennials work that is “meaningful and interesting”. If they are at the lowest level of individual contributor, they may just have to do the work that is laborious and repetitive i.e. WORK. The “right … compensation” may not be validated by the marketplace or budgeted in the company. Millennials need to have realistic expectations of what work is given their amount of experience and potential contribution in comparison to others in the same group.

  2. Ara Toroyan says:

    In some cases it is unrealistic to give Millennials work that is “meaningful and interesting”. If they are at the lowest level of individual contributor, they may just have to do the work that is laborious and repetitive i.e. WORK. The “right … compensation” may not be validated by the marketplace or budgeted in the company. Millennials need to have realistic expectations of what work is given their amount of experience and potential contribution in comparison to others in the same group.

  3. David says:

    I like the idea of leveling up. This age group enjoys playing video games. Even with simple tasks, when you are able to gamify the work, they are more likely to enjoy the work that it is done. You can easily develop a leader board game with the use of benchmarks and tracking performance.

  4. David says:

    I like the idea of leveling up. This age group enjoys playing video games. Even with simple tasks, when you are able to gamify the work, they are more likely to enjoy the work that it is done. You can easily develop a leader board game with the use of benchmarks and tracking performance.

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