For employers, hiring and retaining young employees has become more difficult than ever before. Today’s young IT workers are often looking for different things in a job than their older counterparts are.
Both research and anecdotal evidence suggest that the millennial generation, those born between 1981 and 2000, behave and think quite differently than previous generations. In comparison with other Americans, people in their 20s and early 30s are more likely to be liberal democrats, less likely to own their own home, less likely to be married, more likely to have a lot of debt and more likely to enjoy digital activities like video games and social media.
Stereotypes often paint these young people as entitled and disloyal, apt to change employers for little or no reason. But Aaron Berger, vice president and millennial expertise lead at Ketchum Public Relations, says this stereotype isn’t entirely deserved. “The difference between now and in the past is, given our access to information, we simply know what our options are at a different level than in the past,” said Berger. “Because of that, we’re constantly looking at ways we can pursue the opportunities available to us. It’s not a selfish thing; it’s simply an awareness.”
For employers, keeping millennial employees happy is critical, not only because these workers are more aware of their options but also because of the size of the group. According to Pew Research, the millennials are now America’s largest living generation, larger even than the baby boomers. “These are the people who one day are going to be the managers, and theoretically, running the company,” added Berger.
So what should employers be offering millennial workers? Berger said that today’s younger employees are searching for three key things:
- Flexibility. “The number one thing that is the most important is flexibility,” said Berger. Millennials like to be able to work from home, and they want diverse job responsibilities that may change over time. “Their intrinsic sense of self has not been tied as much to their career,” Berger observed. “Because of that they want to be doing a lot of things inside the office and outside the office, and they want an employer who supports those endeavors.”
- Support and comradery. That idea of support is also critical for young workers. They want to get the training and job experience that they need to move to the next stage of their careers. In addition, they are looking for an environment where they get along well with their co-workers and management. Berger noted that providing support for employees can be good for other generations of workers as well. While the type of support that a 50-year-old wants may be different than what a 30-year-old desires, employers would do well to show that they can provide their employees with what they need at every stage of their careers.
- A clear career path. Finally, millennials want to know where they are going. If managers want to retain these employees, they need to clearly communicate why the company values them and what the company can help them achieve. “A lack of information sharing, as far as what is my value to this employer, can be a real detriment,” said Berger. He advised employers to keep the lines of communication open and to explain to millennials how their work with the company is contributing to the betterment of society as a whole. The more employers can do that, “the more fulfilled millennials will be and the more willing they will be to stay,” he said.
Ultimately, Berger concluded, keeping millennials happy is “less about giving them what they want and more about giving them a sense of purpose.”
[During the Interop conference, May 15-19, Aaron Berger will be participating in a panel session titled Millennial Re-Tension: How Organizations Can Keep Emerging Talent. Along with Sean Blanda, editor-in-chief at Growth Lab, and Katie Hempenius, software engineer at Fitbit, Berger will be discussing what employers should be doing to attract and retain young employees.]