Will You Ride the Millennial Wave?

It started as a drip.

In the beginning of 1998, the first millennials joined our workforce.

And it’s turned into a massive tidal wave. Research from Pew shows that the millennial generation (people ages 18 to 34) is now the largest segment of our workforce. And according to Deloitte’s Global Human Capital Trends 2014 report, Gen Y is predicted to make up 75 percent of the global workforce by 2020.

Make no mistake about it: Millennials are taking control of the workforce. For nearly two decades now, millennials have flooded our job market; many are now rising through the ranks of management. And with so many boomers retiring, Gen Y is quite literally the U.S. workforce’s saving grace.

Unfortunately, they’re also notorious job-hoppers. In fact, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics states that average millennial job tenure is just 4.4 years.

In the coming years, your company will be tasked with recruiting increasing numbers of millennial employees. Low employment tenure and a tight candidate market will make that task even tougher. Considering these challenges, how can you attract and keep the largest segment of our workforce? Today, I’m sharing five ways to ride the millennial wave:

Think like a millennial. Gen Y’s worldview has been shaped by the explosion of mobile technology and the economic fallout of the Great Recession. They:

  • Value flexibility more than previous generations.
  • Are optimistic and change-tolerant.
  • Prefer to be managed based on productivity and results (not hours logged in your office).

Adapt your management strategies to align with Gen Y’s unique perspective and expectations — and keep top performers interested in working for you.

Offer the cultural perks they crave. Money is one way to lure millennials, but it’s certainly not the only factor driving their employment decisions. This Entrepreneur article cites several company-culture attributes that can help you attract and keep high-performers from this generation:

  • Encouraging entrepreneurial passion. Pursuing a career that aligns with their creative passion is important to millennials. So foster a culture of innovation. Build time into millennials’ jobs for them to dream up new ideas, develop creative solutions to problems and integrate their passions into their jobs.
  • Offering technological innovation. Show that you’re in-step with Gen Y’s love for tech by using it to connect with potential candidates and tell your company’s story. Once you’ve hired them, provide the technology Gen Y needs to stay organized and work on the go.
  • Giving back. Millennials need to know how their work matters. In fact, the 2014 Creative Jobs Report (based on Harris Poll data) indicated that 35 percent of millennials feel it’s important to have a job with a positive social impact, while just 19 percent of the total workforce shares the same sentiment. To recruit and retain Gen Y, make it clear how your company is both socially responsible and a positive contributor to your community.

Provide greater work flex. As a generation, millennials are at a crossroads: they’re being promoted into management and simultaneously starting families. Not surprisingly, achieving work-life satisfaction is both extremely important — and extremely difficult — for them. Here are a few flexibility offerings to help them strike the right balance within your organization:

  • Flex time. Allow employees to shift start and end times on both recurring and ad-hoc bases.
  • Compressed workweeks. Redistribute weekly work hours into fewer days, such as a 4-day/10-hour workweek.
  • Telecommuting. When appropriate, allow employees to work a portion of their workweek off-site.
  • Paid family leave. Currently, only about 12 percent of U.S. employers offer this benefit. While it’s an expensive proposition, it also offers huge competitive recruiting and retention advantages.

Strengthen intergenerational ties. To create high-functioning teams that welcome and nurture millennials, leverage the value each generation offers. Look for cross-generational mentoring, job shadowing and training opportunities in which older employees can share their experience while younger employees can facilitate upward knowledge transfer — particularly in tech-related areas.

Sell your opportunities. When recruiting, go beyond mere job descriptions — and show millennial candidates, “What’s in it for me?”  Highlight all of the ways your opportunities cater to millennials’ need for flexibility, technology, career growth and more. Reinforce your employer brand message everywhere you connect with Gen Y talent, including your career portal, job board postings, social media accounts and company blog.