Guest post by Rachel Ernst

It’s time to accept and adjust. Retaining millennials is now a priority.

Retaining millennials in the workplace has become a priority for many companies. Millennials have developed a reputation in the workplace for being job-hoppers and for lacking employer loyalty. Some perceive it as being lazy or an attention deficit, but rather than label an entire generation as fickle, perhaps it’s time employers started asking themselves “how do we need to adjust our management style to account for this?”

Any time an issue becomes a broader phenomenon, a better choice is to adjust the reaction to the problem rather than trying to solve it.

It’s no secret that millennial turnover in the workplace is rampant. Gallup estimates that 60 percent of millennials are open to new job opportunities at any time, and for a generation that now makes up one-third of the workforce, that presents a real problem for employers. In fact, millennial turnover alone costs U.S. companies $30.5 billion annually.

The Lesson to Be Learned

How can we understand them better? As the millennial generation has become a force to be reckoned with in the workplace, we’ve learned that the problem isn’t millennial discontentment: they know exactly what they want and aren’t willing to settle for anything less.

Unlike generations that came before them, millennials don’t believe that being miserable at work just comes with the territory or that sacrificing your own personal life, goals, and ambitions is just what you do. Instead, they believe that somewhere out there is a job that’s perfect for them, that fits not only their skills, but also their personality, values, and lifestyle.

Frankly, I believe everyone should always be in pursuit of their ideal role with their current employer first, then at another company if necessary. In order for this to happen, managers must make it safe and comfortable for employees to pursue opportunities within their current company.

More Competition

Given the highly competitive talent market, employers have an obligation to provide the kind of employee experience that millennials expect—and that every employee deserves. This employee experience, which Jacob Morgan describes as the ideal convergence of both the employee’s and the organization’s expectations, needs and wants, is a people-centric approach to running a business. It creates an environment in which people would want to come to work, even if they didn’t have to.

Here are five tips for delivering that outstanding employee experience retaining millennials, as well as their colleagues of every generation.

Communication, Trust, and Teamwork

Cultivating a company culture in which employees feel that their input matters, and that they’re trusted to do the job you hired them for, is critical. Constantly looking over their shoulders, scrutinizing their sick days and questioning their attendance are, for the most part, completely unnecessary.

If you’ve selected qualified and motivated employees carefully, they’ll want to do their best work, so give them the freedom and flexibility to do so. Focus on the quality of time spent and the output of their effort, rather than quantity of hours spent on the clock.

Create a Mission Grounded in Purpose

Retaining millennials requires more than a paycheck. Millennials especially want to feel that their work has a greater purpose beyond business success and revenue targets. In fact, more than half of this generation of workers says they’d be willing to take a 15 percent pay cut to work for an organization that aligns with their values.

They want to know that their company is invested in making the world, or at least their community, a better place, and not just in making money. One way to foster this sense of purpose is to encourage, enable, and incentivize employees to volunteer and give back through community projects or pro bono work, even if it’s done on company time. Your company can go step further by organizing meaningful community initiatives that help people beyond the company’s customers.

Focus on Wellness

With the staggering cost of healthcare and the rising cost of insurance, there’s a growing movement among employers to offer incentives for employee wellness. Things like One Medical memberships, healthy snack options, and flu shots appeal. But, the truth is, wellness goes far beyond just avoiding trips to the doctor.

It also includes intellectual and psychological wellness that enables employees to perform at their peak. Offering mental health days, holding a room to be a medication room, providing yoga once a week and other holistic wellness programs can drive a decrease in absenteeism, and increase in productivity, and demonstrate that the company is invested in taking care of its people—both body and mind.

Cultivate an Engaging Environment

Research has shown that people who can choose where they work are more highly engaged, and that engagement correlates directly with workplace satisfaction and consequently, retaining millennials. Morgan’s employee experience model suggests that a satisfactory environment must include a healthy culture and access to robust technology and physical spaces that inspire employees to be creative, collaborate and solve problems. What does an engaging environment look like for your employees? Start by asking them!

Focus on Real-Time Feedback

Nearly 70 percent of millennials believe the annual review process is flawed and almost three-fourths feel “in the dark” about their performance. Worse yet, nearly 60 percent say their manager is unprepared to give feedback during performance reviews and nearly 30 percent have looked for a new job as a direct result of a formal review process.

Instead, millennials and their colleagues crave real-time feedback. Some 85 percent say they want more frequent and more specific input from their managers on how they’re performing, which not only keeps them informed but also provides opportunities for improvement.

By building real-time feedback into the culture and performance management process, employees will be less likely to feel blindsided by a negative annual review and head for the door, and more apt to focus on continuous improvement throughout the year. This can be done by having a more regular cadence of review conversations, and by more regularly asking for employee input through quick polls. Leaders asking for feedback more often encourages employees to follow suit.

Retaining Millennials in the Modern Workplace

As millennials have infiltrated and influenced the modern workplace, the strategies for retaining millennials can easily be applied to workers of every generation. The trick to maintaining engagement and delivering a superior employee experience is that there’s no real trick at all. Simply treat them the way you’d want to be treated: as a valuable, responsible, capable, trustworthy, and talented member of the team.

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