Business Owners, Here’s How To Retain Motivated Millennials

I’ve worked with a lot of business owners in the last five years. In that time, I’ve found that there is a serious disconnect between millennials and their predecessors. From being part of startups with young entrepreneurs, to working in corporate settings, and even playing coach to presidents and CEOs of medium-to-large sized businesses; there are a slew of fish in the economic sea of opportunity.

Unfortunately, one thing I keep running into is a misunderstanding between millennials and baby boomers (and sometimes, traditionalists). Baby boomer business owners become perplexed when they hear unorthodox answers to traditional interview questions. So, I’m here to help!

After all, who could be a better witness to these facts than a purebred millennial?

Here’s some insight on what makes millennials tick, tock, and rock:

Quality > Quantity

This is probably the most important pillar in retaining millennials in the work place. Believe it or not, what happens outside of the office holds more weight than what happens inside. Millennials aren’t married to the idea of being someone’s work horse, just to survive- or in more blunt terms, they are not a generation that will live (and work) solely to pay bills. A lot of them cut out extra spending so they don’t necessarily “need” to be employed by the likes of corporate America. Heck, a lot of millennials with degrees end up working in hospitality or the service industry. It’s better money, less stress, and the schedules allow for actually living life. Understand that what was important to your generation holds little value to millennials (assets/material things). With the recession, millennials watched their parents and grandparents have the rug pulled from underneath them. The “stability” they worked more than half their lives for, was suddenly compromised or taken away entirely. They understand that quality is more important than quantity. For their generation, it has to be. Stability and security don’t mean what they used to, and millennials are more concerned with life experiences and relationships than a corporate job title with a barely-there paycheck and monotonous hours.

How To Capitalize: Consider shorter work weeks, the option to work multiple days from home, or earning extra time off. This isn’t a revolutionary thought, it’s just different. But, relax, and put your guard down for one moment. Let’s be honest. It is no secret that your employees work about 30 of the 40 hours they’re required to sit in their cubicle for. Assuming you have seasoned, ambitious professionals on hand, the same amount of work is going to be produced, regardless. And giving these options will retain the employees who are the most valuable to your brand. They’re the same employees who are going to leave your company for a more progressive, younger company sooner than later. They’re sought after, and with job opportunities increasing, they really don’t have to feel like they “need” to stay in a job; especially, if they are unhappy with life quality.

Value Is Priceless

It’s crazy, I know. But, humans need to feel valued. And millennials need it even more. They’ve been rejected time after time after time after time (etc), not because they aren’t capable, but because there just weren’t any jobs when they were ready to join the work force, post college. It’s not rocket science. Egos were bruised, realities were turned upside down. Opportunities which were promised with “higher education” did not present themselves.

How To Capitalize: Skip the employee of the month stuff. Take time once in a while, make it quarterly if you’re one to keep to a schedule, to let your staff know they matter, and that they do good work. Really, it’s that simple. I’ve received a lot of recognition throughout my career for various accomplishments. However, the main one that sticks out is a handwritten note from a former superior. It was two or three sentences complimenting my progress, as well as my contributions to the team. I still have that little notecard. I probably always will. You have got to let the people who carry your company, know that they matter.

Culture Over Corporate

In line with their other values, millennials value culture in a work place over corporate mumbo-jumbo. They don’t care about a fancy office building, or a reserved parking spot in the over-crowded parking garage. What matters is culture, and not fretting going “back to the office” after a holiday or a vacation. Millennials who are excited to get back to work are your best bet at continued success.

How To Capitalize: Consider programs that bring your staff together, but outside of the work place. Whether it’s monthly volunteer work, 5k runs/walks, or self improvement workshops- staff that play together, stay together. With the rise of digital and social media, employees no longer want to be strangers to their co-workers in order to “keep things professional.” Most millennials are open books who prefer to actually like (and know) the people they work with. Again, remember: relationships matter. Team-building through extracurricular fun is most certainly a win, all the way around. Think of it as building a work-place that’s a home away from home. Because home, is where the heart is. Right?

Challenges = Rewards

There was once a school of thought (I’m sure it still exists) that millennials are entitled; that they have unrealistic, unearned expectations of the benefits reaped from education and hard work. I don’t think that’s a millennial thing. I think that has probably existed in every generation. It was just highlighted by millennials because people wanted to work, but there were no jobs to work in. That being said, challenges and rewards in the work place are a huge incentive for millennials. It gives them a chance to compete and strut their skills, while working towards a goal for your brand. Ultimately, it ends up boosting morale and confidence, both of which are wins for your company.

How To Capitalize: Depending on your industry, construct contests that will inspire your staff, but will also further your brand’s value. Whether it’s sales goals, widely shared content, or the most conversions. I’m talking digital because it’s what I know. But definitely customize the challenges to fit your niche. Offer rewards that matter, like comp time or a work from home day. Sure, money is cool. But, it is not a millennial’s motivation. Life is.

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