How to Attract and Retain Millennial Employees

Photo of young woman in work attire with co-workers in background discussing how to attract and retain millennials

Millennials make up a large part of the workforce, and more are entering every year. But even though their share of the labor pool will only grow as Baby Boomers continue to retire, plenty of organizations still don’t understand what Millennials want, or how to manage them.

Contrary to the stereotype, Millennials don’t prefer changing organizations every few years. In fact, Millennials want to learn, grow, and become leaders in their organizations. They are eager for opportunities.

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

Our book, What Millennials Want From Work, 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 of the book’s research, which HR leaders should note, is that Millennials are both committed to their jobs…and also willing to leave:

  • 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.
  • Yet nearly 1 in 3 (30%) report they are looking for a new job right now.

To Attract and Retain Millennial Employees, Understand What They Care Most About

Some Millennials are trying to escape a situation they don’t like — a bad boss, office politics, or a “stuffy” culture. Many feel overloaded and underpaid for the work they’re doing. Other Millennials are looking to “level up” to a better situation, even if they’re generally satisfied with their current situation. Organizations that see retaining high-potential 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 in the workplace, we recommend that organizations pay attention to 3 dimensions: the people, the work itself, and the opportunities for development.

The People

Millennials report that the people they work with are an incredibly important part of their experience. They place significant value on their team, boss, mentors, and friends in the workplace. To attract and retain Millennial employees, 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’re more likely to go elsewhere.

The Work Itself

Millennials want their work to be interesting and meaningful, and they value corporate social responsibility initiatives. What they do and how they do it is critical to their workplace experience. Purpose and value alignment are incredibly important to them. Balance is also important to them — they don’t actually want to be plugged into work at all times. To attract and retain Millennial employees, improve flexibility in the workplace. Structure work so that it’s interesting, 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. They are interested in equitable access to opportunities for development, promotions, competitive salary structures, and feedback for them to feel they’re continuing to progress even as they stay with the same organization. They value autonomy and like to learn and grow, and they enjoy opportunities that allow them to contribute to society because they care deeply about doing good.

Get practical advice for managing, leading, and working with Millennials to improve teamwork, increase productivity, strengthen organizational culture, and build a robust talent pipeline.

Tips on Retaining Millennial Employees

Millennials want to advance, and they’d appreciate your help in getting there.

  • Millennials want and need development, so HR leaders and managers who want to retain Millennial employees need to help them to access development. As stated above, Millennials are eager for opportunities, and they would appreciate it if their managers would help them strategize about what they want in their careers and understand what they need to do in order to develop to that point.
  • They’d also like to feel like they’re genuinely appreciated. Providing feedback about what they’re doing well and constructively framing how they could improve or be a better employee is useful and can motivate them. Showing gratitude is a good practice for all leaders, but Millennials in particular value this level of feedback.
  • Millennials also want their managers to be coaches and mentors, providing individualized guidance and holding coaching conversations rather than merely assigning tasks or delegating responsibilities. Like everyone, this generation doesn’t particularly like being micromanaged, and they seek opportunities to work independently.
  • Millennials still need direction and instructions for what’s expected of them. This means that managers need to walk the line between making sure direct reports understand what needs to be done without telling them exactly what to do in painstaking detail.

Jokes about lazy and entitled youth aside, many of the characteristics that exemplify the Millennial generation overlap with their predecessors, and this is a key truth about Millennials in the workplace. In fact, different generations in the workplace share more common values than you might think.

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

By understanding this generation’s primary concerns, and by following this advice about providing ample development opportunities, you will be more likely to retain your talented Millennial employees.

Ready to Take the Next Step?

To attract and retain Millennial employees, invest in them with leadership development that helps them build critical leadership skills and organizational competencies. Learn more about our virtual leadership development programs.

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June 18, 2022
Leading Effectively Staff
About the Author(s)
Leading Effectively Staff
This article was written by our Leading Effectively staff, who analyze our decades of pioneering, expert research and experiences in the field to share content that will help leaders at every level. Subscribe to our emails to get the latest research-based leadership articles and insights sent straight to your inbox.

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