As a coach of CEOs and business leaders on how to retain Millennial talent, I am often presented with the same problem: in a desperate attempt to appeal to their Millennial staff, business owners buy Ping Pong tables, kegs of craft beer for the office kitchen, free food, or setup an Xbox in their office common area.
And low and behold their Millennial staff continue to walk out on them, but why?.
Senior or seasoned staff see this generation of 20-30 somethings as being vastly different than any generation that came before them. They complain of Millennial’s need to be taught industry skills, their laziness, their incessant attempts to have their ideas heard, their utopian ideas about work life balance and their peculiar craving for a sense of professional progression.
Nonetheless, the great Millennial secret is that they are more similar to every other generation of young and ambitious people throughout history.
Universally, what Millennials want is to be taught what they don’t know so they can grow and progress. They want the chance to teach others to help improve those around them. When they speak, they want to be heard and valued. And they want guidance on how to be successful from people who have already walked the path they’re embarking on.
There is no mystery there.
Recognizing this similarity between Millennials and all generations is the easy part. The real solution to retaining your millennial talent is easier said than done and comes in establishing an intergenerational office culture founded on teaching, learning, listening and guidance. Here’s why and how:
Teaching Millennials Benefits All Generations
PayScale’s 2016 Workforce Report revealed a stark contrast between Millennial’s perception of their preparedness for their job and that of their senior (and older) hiring managers. PayScale’s report showed that 87% of Millennials thought they were prepared for their job, while only 50% of managers felt their Millennial staff were prepared.
While managers are quick to pick up on Millennial’s unpreparedness, “they should just know it, the thinking goes, because the senior folks all learned it themselves.” Can you say …bull….
Nonetheless, they seem to turn a blind eye to a far more important Millennial characteristic: their desire for professional development opportunities.
According to PWC’s Millennials at Work Reshaping the Workplace Report, professional development is “…their first choice benefit from employers,” ranking above flexible hours and pay.
To begin developing a teaching culture, you need to ask yourself honestly: do your Millennial employees have regular opportunities to work with and learn from your senior staff?
If the answer is no, the time to start creating those learning opportunities for Millennials is now.
For senior staff, it means building a rapport and genuine relationship with their younger staff, a chance to pass on their expertise, and the chance to help the younger generation progress professionally.
For Millennials, mentorship opportunities provide a sense that their team and company are invested in them. Mentorships are a chance for younger talent to learn from the wisdom of those with decades of experience in their industry, to improve their skills in the areas they are lacking, and provide a sense of professional progress.
According to the data, if you want loyalty from Millennials, you have to provide them these opportunities to learn and grow professionally. This is a savvy and ambitious generation. Their hunger to learn and grow needs be fed by employers. Otherwise, Millennials are happy to pack up and find opportunities to develop their skills elsewhere.
You’ve Got a Lot to Learn From Millennials
Though older generations may only view Millennials as 50% prepared for the workplace, that 50% can be incredibly valuable to senior staff who now face a strange and intimidating new landscape where email is seen as being a bit outdated and popular trends change on a dime.
Thankfully for senior staff, their Millennial colleagues present a unique learning opportunity on how to operate in the digital age.
From more efficient in-office communication tools, to new platforms to exploit, to understanding the ideas, motivations and mindset of 83 million of their fellow Millennials, the younger generation has a lot to teach the seasoned professionals in the office.
And Millennials want to teach.
They are aware that in the complex digital age, it is only those that innovate, adapt and evolve that survive. Millennial complaints about antiquated meeting schedules or dated sales tactics don’t come from a sense of entitlement; they come from a sense of urgency. They have taken part in the digital age since they were born. They know how fast the world moves. And they want you and your organization to keep up.
The reward for senior staff who take the time to learn from them? A crash course in the latest trends, tools, and platforms, in addition to that much sought after millennial loyalty.
But to learn, senior staff first have to be willing to listen.
For Millennials, To Be Heard is to Be Valued
Millennial workers overwhelmingly enjoy working with the other older generations. In the same PWC study, 76% of Millennials said that they enjoyed working with “older senior management” and only 4% disagreed. It isn’t about being needy or entitled. Millennials want the opportunity to have their ideas heard, to get feedback on those ideas from senior staff, and to feel valued by the companies they work for.
And senior or seasoned staff may do well by listening.
Millennials are responsible for many of the recent positive trends in workplace environments. They facilitate more collaborative work environments, introduce communication tools that limit the need for inefficient meetings, emphasize the importance of having a sense of purpose at work, and have made CSR an essential company perk.
They also represent a huge chunk of the US economy, “spending more than $650 billion each year and influencing upward of $1 trillion in total consumer spending.” Listening to how they think, the things they like, and the values they hold can help senior staff with decisions on everything from marketing strategies to product design.