Instead of worrying about your people leaving and having problems with your Millennial population, invest in their development in a personalized and meaningful way.
Today, the managers’ lamentations of “Millennials aren’t loyal!” and “why should I put any time into training these people when they’re going to leave soon and I’ll have to start all over again?” are loud and frequent. Job hopping, disloyal Millennials seem to be at the center of all complaints in talent discussions no matter what region or industry.
The conversation is misplaced. In general, Millennials have learned by watching their parents and the news that no company will automatically “take care” of any one employee over the long haul. Moving from place to place and position to position is a well-informed career strategy for this generation.
The day we hire someone, we know they are going to leave; what we really don’t want is someone to leave before we want them to. Stop worrying about good people leaving “early” and start worrying about mediocre performers staying. Focus on ensuring that the “lowest” performers have the training, mentorship, and feedback loop they need to improve and thrive. The byproduct of this approach will be that the higher-performers will stay longer in this type of green-your-own-grass environment.
Green Your Own Pasture
The number one request by Millennials in the workplace is help finding a mentor – over 73% rank “getting a mentor” as “extremely important.” This isn’t that surprising when we factor in the close relationship so many Millennials have with their parents through and after college. They are used to, and seek, beneficial relationships with older people from whom they can get input.
By matching up our teams into mentor-mentee relationships we are providing a significant dynamic for everyone that helps maintain an association to our organizations.
Specific and Timely Feedback
We all want to know how we are doing, and none of us want to be embarrassed by being allowed to be wrong for long. Creating a culture where specific feedback – reinforced and constructive – is given regularly and frequently, not only increases performance, but also increases collaboration, morale, and productivity.
Giving feedback well is a skill and muscle set that needs to be built and maintained. Practice. Practice. Practice. Until giving specific corrective feedback is natural and not a “big deal.” When everyone knows they can improve and that their colleagues seek to help their teammates reach their goals, productivity rises dramatically.
It is well documented by researchers at Harvard and Wharton, among other highly-regarded institutions, that people and teams that feel appreciated outperform those that don’t by significant margins. These significant margins translate right down to the bottom line.
The better people feel about their contributions, the better the morale of the group, which contributes to a positive work environment, which, in turn, directly impacts performance and increases talent longevity. Frankly, it’s a good business decision to nurture a culture where “please” and “thank you” are readily offered among colleagues.
Leadership development is the new black – something that every organization needs to be doing throughout a team regardless of level so that every member is equipped to take the lead when the time is right. Too often companies save leadership development for people they think may “rise.” This is a shortsighted practice held over from our traditionally hierarchical organizations that prized leadership by title.
Hierarchy is antithetical to the Millennial experience, and to reserve leadership training for the few negates the possibility of the many to lead in big and small ways throughout the day or process. Lack of leadership development is a key driver of Millennials’ job dissatisfaction. In fact, Millennials who are actively considering leaving their current positions are significantly more likely to attribute their desire to find a new position to lack of leadership training.
Opportunity and Possibility
Last, the ability to retain top talent in our organizations is directly related to how much opportunity these high performers feel they have to advance towards their individual goals. Thinking creatively about how your company can provide alternative, nonhierarchical, career paths that maximize strengths and the desire to advance towards a person’s individual goals will increasingly be the key to retaining the people who can make material difference in your company. Yes, it’s messy. Yes, it’s hard to “check boxes” with this mindset. Yes, it’s absolutely possible. And those companies that figure it out first will have a significant advantage over those that don’t in the increasing war for talent in which we are all engaged.
At no time should greening our pastures compromise quality of performance. It’s the blending of valuable cultures with high-performing teams that create the organizations that will thrive, not just survive, as the workforce becomes increasingly complicated with Millennials and their younger brethren Generation Z coming into, and dominating our ranks.
Lee Caraher CEO and author of The Boomerang Principle: Inspire Lifetime Loyalty from Your Employees (CLICK HERE to get your copy).
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