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Oh, those Millennials.

 

Entitled and lazy, this is the generation of those aged 18 through 35 that values a well-stocked snack bar and foosball tables as workplace perks and has mastered the art of walking while texting, with eyes firmly glued to the iPhone screen. It’s a group that jumps from job to job as company loyalty is one of those passé concepts when there’s greener grass at the organization down the road.

 

In reality, the Millennials are a generation about which many misleading stereotypes have taken hold. It can make for self-fulfilling prophecies that may hinder businesses’ ability to leverage the group’s potential to bring real and significant value, and not just for the perceived short-term of their tenure. Getting past the stereotypes and better understanding what motivates this generation and engenders its loyalty is a big part of the fix.

 

First, consider that job-hopping stereotype.

 

A new study by Pew says it doesn’t hold water. In fact, it finds that college-educated Millennials don’t hop any more than the GenXers before them. In fact, they have longer tenures than the preceding generation when GenXers were the same age as today’s Millennials.

 

As of January 2016, Pew found that 63.4 percent of employed Millennials had worked for their current employer at least 13 months. In February 2000, the same job tenure was reported by 59.9 percent of GenXers then aged 18 to 35. Furthermore, 22 percent of today’s Millennials had been with the same employer for at least five years, similar to the share of GenX workers (21.8 percent) in 2000.

 

That said, another survey by Deloitte did find that two-thirds of Millennials hope to leave their present jobs by 2020. But, whether their reasoning qualifies this as job hopping is another question: Over 60 percent say they are looking for positions where they will have the opportunity to more fully develop their leadership skills.

 

So, what does this all mean to employers?

 

First, today’s workforce is probably the most diverse it has ever been. This is true in terms of the distinct generations populating it, from Millennials to GenX to Baby Boomers, as well as cultures and proportionate mix of genders.

 

Employers benefit from that diversity, says Zabeen HirjiSpecial Advisor and former CHRO at Royal Bank of Canada (RBC). Companies like RBC that see diversity as an asset and treat their people accordingly, experience better commitment, higher productivity and lower turnover.

 

But, it also means employers need to create environments that are aligned with the particular wants and needs of the distinct components that comprise their workforces.

 

If it’s loyalty employers want, that’s how they’ll earn it.

 

And when it comes to their Millennial employees, company loyalty starts by understanding their motivations: As the Deloitte study found, it’s not just money that drives this generation – it’s the opportunity to grow. So training and development programs offered to Millennials are critical.

 

Further, according to another report by PwC, “Millennials at Work: Reshaping the Workplace,” many in this segment respond well to mentoring by older employees, and ideally would like their boss to also coach their personal development. They also prefer to learn by doing versus being told. They want continuous learning and the encouragement to innovate as they apply the knowledge they gain. And they want frequent welcome feedback – if not praise – so they know how they’re doing and can respond.

 

Just having the conversation will make a difference to the pace at which Millennial employees come and go. Writing in the Wall Street Journal, Jennifer Deal of the Center for Creative Leadership, posited that one factor playing into this generation’s perceived transiency is their assumption that they have no job security.

 

In fact, nearly half of those Millennials she interviewed would like to stay at one company for more than ten years. “It’s a vicious circle. Managers and leaders think job security isn’t important to Millennials, and therefore neither offer it nor talk about it as part of the employee value proposition,” Deal wrote.

 

“Millennials, thinking job security isn’t an option where they are, seek new jobs elsewhere where they can at least improve their pay and development opportunities, and think they might have a better shot at job security.”

 

Ultimately, employers need to understand that it’s more than superficial nods to the stereotypes that will make the difference in retaining their Millennial talent. The best and the brightest will be looking for employers who go beyond diversity tokenism and greenwashed corporate values, and show they truly are walking the talk on their promises.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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