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6 Ways to Retain Your Generation Y Future Leaders

GUEST CONTRIBUTOR: Authored by Lisa Orrell. Orrell is known globally as The Generation Relations Expert. She is the author of the top-selling books Millennials Incorporated and Millennials into Leadership. In the first of a three-part series, Orrell discusses not only how to better manage and retain your Millennial talent, but also how to groom them to be effective leaders.

Why do companies – large and small – spend so much time worrying about how to retain Millennials (a.k.a. Gen Y)?  It’s basically a matter of math.

According to the Employment Policy Foundation (EPF), our country is at the beginning of a labor shortage of approximately 35 million skilled and educated workers, which is estimated to continue over the next two decades – especially now that Baby Boomers are starting to retire at an estimated rate of 1 every 8 seconds.

Out of necessity, Millennials – many of whom may only have one to three years of career experience – are moving into management roles much sooner (and younger!) than the generations before them did – and are expected to perform in these roles successfully.

While it’s entirely possible to groom this next generation of professionals to be effective leaders, you must first be able to retain them (otherwise, grooming them for leadership won’t even matter!). For the first of this three-part series, I’d like to share six effective tips to help employers and managers effectively retain Millennial talent.

6 Ways to Retain Your Gen Y Employees:

  1. Constant Contact: A recent survey of over 1,000 Millennials showed that over 60 percent of them want to hear from their managers at least once a day. That message is pretty clear: They want to communicate with you often so make it happen or they will leave! Unfortunately many older generations tend to operate differently. Oftentimes, they have a hands-off approach to management, but this style clearly does not work well with Millennials.
  2. Praise Culture: We all need praise from our employers, but Millennials tend to need it more often than older generations. If they are not feeling “valued” on a regular basis, they will leave. So many well-known companies are shifting to a “praise culture” to retain them…and it improves retention of their older employees, too! Get creative and have fun with this. I know of one company that actually appointed a “celebrations assistant” in their office and one of her tasks is to throw confetti on employees (in their cubes or offices) whenever a manager tells her an employee had done something exceptional. I realize this strategy may sound a bit extreme to you, but this company is obviously seeing an ROI (or the confetti wouldn’t be happening).
  3. Rapid Advancement Alternatives:Millennials feel that “paying their dues” is just occupying space for no good reason. So if a Millennial employee is truly qualified for a promotion, many companies now offer it to them versus giving the position to someone who has simply been at the company longer. But what if they’re not qualified to move up the ladder yet and getting antsy? Find creative ways to give them more responsibility, such as letting them do one or more of the following:
    1. Start, or write for, the company blog
    2. Set-up, or participate in, your company Fan Page on Facebook or other social media presence
    3. Contribute to the company e-newsletter
    4. Research and set-up a new software solution that improves productivity for your company (or department).

    You don’t always have to give them a raise or promotion to keep them happy; being creative with increased responsibility can work great! Millennials have fast minds and get bored quickly, but it’s your job as their employer to help eliminate the “boredom” factor.

  4. Cubicle Shackles: Millennials have a very hard time understanding why they need to sit in a cubicle 8-10 hours a day. They want the flexibility to work anytime, from anywhere, and many companies are revamping their policies to provide more flexibility, using flex time as a “perk” to attract Millennials to their workforce. The upside? Employees from all generations respond favorably to this flexibility and employers actually find that most employees become more productive…and tend to put in longer hours!
  5. Mentor Programs: This is key! Millennials have grown up with a lot of guidance from their parents, society and teachers. Now, they expect this type of handholding at work. So, heed this advice! If your company, large or small, doesn’t offer a formal (or informal) mentorship program, create one. I recently spoke with three Millennials who actually quit their jobs within one year because their employers had promised mentorship, but never delivered. Mentorship truly means that much to them.
  6. Leadership Training: There is a resurgence of Leadership & Management training programs happening because the Millennials want it, need it and are demanding it. In the past year, my Millennial Business Boot Camp and Get a Grip on Leadership workshops have become, hands down, my most requested presentations – that’s how important leadership training has become. Unfortunately, MANY companies still do not offer these types of programs, much to their own detriment. It’s only a matter of time before their Millennial employees leave to pursue organizations that do offer these programs.

Finally, it’s important to remember that Millennials’ wants and needs aren’t much different from those of older generations; they just have a lower tolerance threshold than generations before them. A Boomer may put up with a job for five years even if he or she is bored or doesn’t feel valued, but a Millennial may only tolerate it for five months…or until the current job market improves.

In the next few weeks, I’ll be posting parts two and three of this series, to address tips and best practices for preparing Millennials to be successful leaders in your organization.

For more information about Lisa Orrell, visit: www.TheOrrellGroup.com.

8 comments
Janet Clarey
Janet Clarey

How does this differ for retaining *any* worker at any age? I like to hear from my manager once a day. Dont' you? I like to feel valued. Don't you? I don't like to be bored. How about you? I really like being location independent and love being mentored. I wouldn't mind leadership training if I was just starting out in a managerial role either. In fact, I'd expect it. Why is this a generational issue? Are you suggesting an entirely different leadership development program for older people? Gen X follow this path, Gen Y...this one. Different for men and women? Different for Americans and Canadians?

I've got a pretty low tolerance threshold and it's got nothing to do with age. We're all more alike than different.

Janet Clarey
Janet Clarey

How does this differ for retaining *any* worker at any age? I like to hear from my manager once a day. Dont' you? I like to feel valued. Don't you? I don't like to be bored. How about you? I really like being location independent and love being mentored. I wouldn't mind leadership training if I was just starting out in a managerial role either. In fact, I'd expect it. Why is this a generational issue? Are you suggesting an entirely different leadership development program for older people? Gen X follow this path, Gen Y...this one. Different for men and women? Different for Americans and Canadians?

I've got a pretty low tolerance threshold and it's got nothing to do with age. We're all more alike than different.

Scott Schimmel
Scott Schimmel

I couldn't agree more! Working with dozens of Gen Y emerging leaders I find the consistent need by them to be developed- it's a higher value than anything else. You're giving some very practical handles for what development looks like in an organization. Thanks!

Lindsay
Lindsay

I'm a member of Gen Y. After spending 6 years in the corporate world, I agree that changes are needed to retain and motivate Gen Y employees in the workplace. Some technology companies (Google, Facebook) seem to be doing a good job of creatively implementing new incentive structures, rapid advancement paths and options to work outside of the cubicle. However, most large companies have a long way to go since these recommendations are a significant shift in their corporate cultures.

Lindsay
Lindsay

I'm a member of Gen Y. After spending 6 years in the corporate world, I agree that changes are needed to retain and motivate Gen Y employees in the workplace. Some technology companies (Google, Facebook) seem to be doing a good job of creatively implementing new incentive structures, rapid advancement paths and options to work outside of the cubicle. However, most large companies have a long way to go since these recommendations are a significant shift in their corporate cultures.

Beth Campbell Duke
Beth Campbell Duke

Thanks for this information - as you pointed out a few times in this article, the actions that millennials are demanding from employers are also working with older workers. This is no coincidence, since they're really demanding that workplaces begin to acknowledge the human aspect of relationships - and we've seen how workplace stress-related illnesses have increased as our feeling of connectedness at work has declined.

Paul Brice
Paul Brice

One of the reasons for Mentoring the Y generation and providing Leadership and Management Training for Gen Y is because they are incredibly aspirational....they see the Mark Zuckerberg's of this world and they want what he is having. And they want it now, no time to spare.

And that sets up an incredible opportunity but all of that aspiration is coupled with desire, thirst for knowledge, commitment and fearlessness in the face of change.

Paul Brice
Paul Brice

One of the reasons for Mentoring the Y generation and providing Leadership and Management Training for Gen Y is because they are incredibly aspirational....they see the Mark Zuckerberg's of this world and they want what he is having. And they want it now, no time to spare.

And that sets up an incredible opportunity but all of that aspiration is coupled with desire, thirst for knowledge, commitment and fearlessness in the face of change.

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