Any article comparing one generation to another should come with a disclaimer, so here it is: Generalizing an entire group of people born during a certain timeframe can lead to dangerous stereotypes – stereotypes that can either set unfairly lofty expectations for individual employees or lead to unwarranted criticism.
Take millennials as an example. Children of the so-called Digital Age, members of the millennial generation generally know their way around smartphones and tablets – but that doesn’t mean everybody born between 1980-2000 will grow up to be Mark Zuckerberg. Likewise, even though some young folks may display negative traits in the workplace, the entire millennial generation is certainly not – as too many cynical op-ed writers have argued – inherently entitled, narcissistic or lazy.
That distinction being made, research can absolutely help identify helpful generational trends – and modern businesses need to strategically use this data to attract, develop and retain their next crop of employees.
Invest in your digital presence: Millennials, being the first generation to grow up with smartphones in their pockets and immediate access to the Internet, are generally known to be technologically savvy. Studies show that young job-seekers’ first steps when researching potential employment opportunities are to visit the employer’s website and social media channels.
These digital platforms are the public face of your business. If your website is outdated and your social media presence is nonexistent or, perhaps worse, boring, young professionals will take that as a sign of your company’s culture.
Modernize your application process: Whether they’re fresh out of school or searching for their next opportunity, young professionals typically cast a wide net during their job search. Since they’re applying to several jobs, efficiency is an important part of your company’s application process.
Pay attention to your office environment: When young professionals come in for interviews, they expect to see a comfortable, attractive workplace. You certainly don’t need to install game rooms or wet bars like you see in some Silicon Valley startups – but a clean, friendly, professional environment goes a long way.
The First Five Days: For any relationship, both professional and personal, first impressions are important. This is especially true when it comes to onboarding new millennial employees. According to the same Ultimate Software Group study, more than 60% of respondents said they knew – within less than a month – whether they could stay at a company long-term.
Feedback, feedback, feedback: A common criticism of young professionals is that many tend to be “coddled.” Taken at face value, this is an unfair generalization, but studies do show that millennial employees appreciate – and expect – regular feedback on their job performance.
Consistent, constructive feedback not only helps young professionals feel comfortable in their new roles, but it also helps them improve over time.
Challenge them: Young professionals are eager to learn new skills, and open to taking on unfamiliar challenges. Salary is still the #1 reason employees quit their jobs, but research shows that young professionals will quit a job – even a well-paying job – if they aren’t presented with learning opportunities.
Clearly communicate their career paths: More than 70% of surveyed young professionals said they want to have a clear idea of their career path at a certain company before they’re even hired. Of course, most companies would prefer to keep their star employees for as long as possible – but it’s crucial to give your employees honest feedback when it comes to future opportunities.
When it comes to retaining young employees, it’s important to remember the disclaimer stated in the first paragraph. Members of the millennial generation tend to have specific skill sets. They tend to have unique perspectives and opinions on workplace etiquette, work ethic and their work environment.
But, at the end of the day, millennial employees are the same as any generation that’s ever entered the workforce: They’re, quite simply, young professionals looking for stable, fulfilling jobs that help them achieve their financial and personal goals.