This article appears as it was featured on Innovation Enterprise.
Millennial turnover leaves a real dent in the economy. In fact, according to a recent Gallup report, an estimated $30 billion is spent annually on Millennial attrition and retention. Business leaders can increase earnings if they hire wisely and work to keep this talent in-house, but they must be ready to stray from typical business conventions.
The never-ending flow of think pieces and commentary about Millennials confirms one thing – they are a different breed than the generations that came before them. In the past decade, the quintessential American icebreaker — ‘What do you do?’— has become fused with their identity.
They’re an audience that wants identities they can be proud of, identities that reflect their values and lifestyle. To Millennials, work is sacred, not some necessary evil, and they don’t have the patience to waste 10 hours a day at a job that doesn’t energize them.
For this demographic, autonomy, lifestyle design, remote work, and not feeling restless are all important. When appropriately activated, a Millennial team will outwork anyone because it doesn’t feel like work — it’s part of their lifestyle.
Secure Your Squad
Research for Global Intolerance’s ‘The Values Revolution’ survey found that 62% of Millennial employees put a higher premium on meaningful work than a high salary. They want autonomy and the freedom to make a difference on their own terms.
Freelance work and the gig economy allow that level of flexibility, which may be why it’s the future of business. A joint report by Upwork and Freelancers Union shows that 55 million people — or 35% of the American workforce — freelanced in 2016, while 79% of respondents felt it was a better option than full-time work.
If companies want to compete with the gig economy and retain a loyal Millennial workforce, they must take on some of the elements embodied by those industries. Here are five ways business leaders can do just that:
1. Embrace and empower the side hustle
Millennials don’t want to feel stuck. Leverage that need for breathing room into execution and growth that fuels a company.
For example, all our company’s employees have something else going on outside of work. We have a DJ, photographers, musicians, bloggers, yoga instructors, and videographers. When hiring, our goal is to empower our employees to continue pursuing outside interests because we don’t expect our business alone to fuel them.
This mentality has worked well, and we’ve been able to utilize most of our employees’ side jobs to benefit our business.
2. Emphasize autonomy and execution
Put simply, your business should get stuff done. Don’t have arbitrary or purely administrative jobs. Instead, give all employees the chance to leave their mark on your company, then recognize them for it.
I asked staff members what their favorite parts of working with us were, and every employee referenced the autonomy and ability to influence the future of the company. By empowering employees to make their own calls, they gain ownership of the process while eliminating bottlenecks.
3. Promote fast
If your business grows at an accelerated rate, you need your employees to mature with you. At our company, few employees stay in the same position for more than six months, as we reward and develop top performers.
In an era of instant gratification, ‘putting the time in’ is not respected. It’s important that your policies accommodate exceptional employees while continuing leadership development for future opportunities.
Invest time in coaching your team through training and feedback while creating a path for upward mobility. If your employees are stagnant, your company likely is, too.
4. Answer the ‘why’
Those seeking the ‘why’ are critical thinkers who aren’t prone to participating in arbitrary activities. For every action, demonstrate a clear reason why it’s important. If you can’t justify its importance, outsource or automate.
5. Keep it 100
Don’t say what you think Millennials want to hear. Some companies offer unlimited vacation or the ability to work remotely but then chastise their employees for taking a day off – that’s a quick way to lose employees. Choose the benefits that truly align with your company’s culture. It’s okay to have a structure, as long as it’s authentic to what your company is.
In recruiting Millennials, management’s most important job is keeping these employees motivated and driven. This is where many companies fall short, but if you identify the needs of these employees and follow the strategies above, you will retain them, and ultimately improve your business.