Millennial Motivations: 5 things your leaders need to know

If you’re in the human resources business, chances are hiring and retaining millennial talent are high on your challenge list.

According to Pew Research Center, people between the ages of 18 and 35 have surpassed Baby Boomers as America’s largest living generation of people. According to Forbes, they may be the most-studied generation in the history of hiring. They may also be the most stereotyped.

Consider this quote from the Harvard Business Review:

Everyone gets it. Conventional wisdom holds that Millennials are entitled, easily distracted, impatient, self-absorbed, lazy, and unlikely to stay in any job for long. On the positive side, they’re also looking for purpose, feedback, and personal life balance in their work. Companies of all kinds are obsessed with understanding them better.

HBR goes on to say that this obsession has led to a $150 billion-per-year global consulting industry aimed at helping companies manage and retain their growing ranks of millennial staff. And despite all those dollars, much of what’s out there about the uniqueness of millennials isn’t based on solid research.

Something that is based on solid research is the fact that millennials are expected to change jobs roughly every 2.5 years, and may even switch whole industries. Losing one millennial from the team can cost a company anywhere from $15,000 to $255,600 depending on how you crunch the numbers.

It’s no wonder that companies are willing to spend so much trying to understand what millennials want and keep them around longer.

A simpler approach: Just ask them directly

Here at Thoughtexchange, we take a radically different approach to finding out what our people (no matter their age) want to be happy in their work. We ask them directly and they respond in their own words, using our software.

We took our approach on the road to the DisruptHR conference in Vancouver last month. There, we had the chance to connect with a large group of people in the HR world and asked them to exchange thoughts on their phones about this question: What are the most effective things that can be done to retain the very best millennial talent?

They shared thoughts in their own words and rated thoughts shared by other people. In the process they decided together what’s most important for keeping younger people happy in their jobs. We quickly sorted their responses by demographic to learn which were most important to people aged 18-35.

Here are the top five topics on the minds of millennials at Disrupt HR Vancouver:

  • Fairness – “Millennials I know seem especially sensitive to this. People should be promoted or compensated based on performance, not politics or who they know in the company. If not, talented people leave.”
  • The career path – “Discuss the potential career path within the organization for that individual. Everyone has a different end goal in mind, and it’s great to know that your managers/peers understand your objectives.”
  • Professional development“Focus on continuous professional development. Millennials love to learn. Keep them challenged and motivated in a supportive environment.”
  • Expectations not rules “I think this generation thrives when they have clear expectations of outcomes, not hard and fast rules about when and how they work.”
  • Meaningful work“The days of doing gopher work for years to “earn your stripes” are over.”

While this is a list of common themes from our exchange with this group of millennials, everyone is different. Truly understanding what’s important to the people in your company can help keep them happier, more productive and more likely to stick around.

Keep an eye out for an upcoming post on the diversity and inclusion exchange we ran in partnership with the HR Tech Group as part of their 2017 Talent Conference.


About the Author

Colin Payne

Colin has been playing with words and telling stories for as long as he can remember. His knack for narratives led him to award-winning work in newspapers and seven successful years as an independent content creator. Along the way, Colin learned to use a camera. Pretty well. He has created images for major corporate clients and national publications while winning international awards for his nature photography. Colin’s quest for meaningful work and drive to do some good in the world eventually led him to Thoughtexchange. He’s continually stoked to help tell the Thoughtexchange story and share how leaders are moving their organizations forward by bringing people together. When not at the keyboard, Colin can be found chasing his two young children or exploring the mountains around his home in Nelson, BC. Find Colin on Twitter @colinpayne_te.

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