An Entitled Millennial's Secrets to Retaining Young Employees

main.jpgSince I’m (sorta) a millennial, I’d like a pool table in the office. I also want “take your parents to work” days, a free pop-tart station, an Atari for kicking back between meetings, and fun, wacky team-building activities where our office slowly becomes family, like in an Aaron Sorkin show (preferably Sports Night, the best tv show ever).

Actually, stop. None of those things are important to me. In fact, I would be mortified and a bit insulted at “take your parents to work” day. Not that my parents aren’t cool, but it’s not like I’m printing out my annual reviews to hang on their fridges.

I don’t know if you’ve read the panic-filled articles, but young people… shhhhh…. job hop. My grandpa worked for the same window factory his whole life, but since I’m 30, of course I’ve switched jobs within the last 12 months. You know who else took a new job in the last few years? My mom. She moved to New York City for an incredible job that fit her skills and experience, just like my job switch. And actually, young people are no more likely to leave their jobs in six months compared to other employees.

Retaining young employees is the magical unicorn of HR and perennial article fodder these days, but it doesn’t need to be. It’s not rocket science. No, really, it’s not.

Here’s my suggestions for retaining young employees:

  • Be a good manager. Tell us what you expect, give us what we need to get the work done, and hold us accountable to it. And yes, we like feedback. That’s a good thing, because you know that we want to get the job done right.
  • Pay us a living wage, one where we can pay our student loans and save for a vacation (I’m not talking about anything fancy, you know, no-frills like Cleveland or something. Sorry YNPN Cleveland).
  • Let us do work where we can see the impact we’re making, even if it’s mail-merging donor thank you letters (especially if it’s mail-merging donor thank you letters). Connecting the mundane data entry to the mission is motivating, and it helps younger employees see the big picture and start thinking strategically.
  • Ground your office policies in the assumption that all of your employees are adults. Consider flexible schedules, lay off the micromanaging, don’t require a doctor’s note for sick days… you know, stuff that YOU would find demeaning to do.
  • Offer good health insurance, or subsidize it with a stipend if we have to buy it on a health exchange.
  • Provide the opportunity for us to take on more challenging work. Start with stretch assignments and move on to promotion considerations from there. And if you can’t offer a promotion, recognize that and be supportive when someone has outgrown their current role.
  • Invest in our professional development. Yeah, there’s the chance we’ll take that training and go somewhere else, but do you really want to save that $75 and not build skills we can put to use right now?

Here’s the real secret: millennials are not magical unicorns. Stop thinking of younger workers as “millennials in need of special treatment,” and start thinking of us as “employees who need a healthy work environment.”

If you create a workplace environment where people want to be, they will stick around. You don’t need a foosball table or a funnel cake machine in your office to do it. You just need to give people meaningful work, fair wages, and good management.

P.S. Summer Fridays are a good bet too.

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