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How to Reach (and Retain) a Millennial Workforce

Tapping into the rising workforce of millennials — those born between 1981–1996 has gone from a punchline to an imperative. As Baby Boomer workers retire in large waves, and Gen-X'ers age into executive positions, it's the millennials who are now driving business in huge numbers. Just how big is the millennial workforce? Data from the Pew Research Center noted that millennials became the largest segment of the U.S. workforce as of 2016. They estimate that about 35%, or 56 million, of U.S. workers are millennials. "With such diverse resources in the millennial workforce, companies should take steps to hire and retain them, but there's no one easy way to do that," says Atul Kumar, CEO of ClikSource. "Lucky for us, there is research that shows companies a good place to start the hard work." So how do you attract millennials to your business?

Know What Millennials Are Looking For in an Employer

Millennials have actually been studied like no other generation in modern history. We have unprecedented access to not only basic demographics, but the wealth of data from the very devices and services they thrive on. With the rise of smartphones in the very years when their generation became consumers and users, millennials are tapped into the constant stream of data coming from their wired devices. That's how we know so much about them and their habits and hopes. As a result of that connectivity, millennials have a true worldview that previous generations didn't always have access to. They don't need a pen pal to get access to other languages and countries — they have 24/7 access to a connected universe online. They see themselves as a part of something bigger than just their own perspective. Instead, they have a need to contribute to something far-reaching, oftentimes forward thinking and global. "Research shows [millennials] put an emphasis on corporate social responsibility, have a great reverence for the environment, place higher worth on acquiring experiences than material things, and are adept at building communities around shared interests," writes Debra Donston-Miller at Forbes. If your business is not prepared to communicate your worldview, you may not be able to attract, much less retain, millennial workers. This is to say, your should remember that you workers (young and old) are human, and are looking to contribute to an existence that is personal as much as it is global.

Reach Out and Talk to Them

You've heard conversations are a two-way street, right? So is the employer/employee relationship, at least ideally. To make your workforce happy (including millennials), create a culture of conversation, not just mandates. For example: Instead of reviews that are one-way, with subordinates getting critiqued only by their supervisors, have junior staff also review their bosses. Encourage 1:1 meetings with staff members where conversation can flow freely between junior and senior members. Let even the newest member of the team feel welcome to contribute ideas, by fostering meeting environments where conversations are fostered amongst colleagues without judgment or harsh critique.

Don't Treat Them Like "Kids"

While millennials might be some of your youngest workers (with their younger generation Gen Z coming right up on their heels), they shouldn't be told they're the "kid" or "intern" — even jokingly. Don't relegate them or their ideas solely to the most entry of positions. If they're bringing smart and innovative thoughts to your company as they get started, think about what more they'll contribute if they stick with you for the long haul. On the other hand, if they don't feel respected, they'll leave for greener pastures where they might have a shot at a more interesting career.

Grow a Diverse Workforce with a Focus on Variety of Needs

Don't think a ping-pong table and midweek bagels are going to cut it anymore. The secret of wooing workers has changed dramatically over the last 20 or even just 10 years. Gone is the one-size-fits-all benefits package. Why? Well, because our needs as a workforce have changed rapidly as well. For workers with families or those with long commutes, flexible work hours or remote work can be a game changer for worker satisfaction. For those closing in on retirement, an aggressive retirement savings structure might be the best way to keep them in the C-suite and not taking early leave. Those not ready to retire might have different ideas on the importance of 401K matches, but could be looking for more of a la carte choice on insurance, time-off, and retirement. And workers with big student loan debt (like millennials) want benefits where employers repay some or even all of their loans with each additional year of service. If you've come to this article looking for insights on employee attraction and retention for some of the youngest workers, know that if you also pay attention to all your ages of workers you'll grow a dynamic and accomplished workforce for years to come.


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