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“I quit” are two words that could describe the mood of the workforce for the last few years. These words have been literally (or figuratively) uttered by many employees across industries and are dreaded by employers. Most people have not realized that many millennials have or will tender their resignations over the next several years. That’s because they are the largest generation in the U.S. labor force, making up more than one-third of the workforce, according to Pew Research Center. By the end of 2025, they will make up 75% of the global workforce.
Millennials — like many other workers — are taking advantage of the employee-friendly job market and making employment changes all over the country. So, if you are not keeping millennial expectations in mind when creating your work environment, you will alienate most of the talent in the current and future job market.
If you are shocked by the fact that the workforce is mostly millennials, you are not alone. However, by embracing this reality and making your company reflect it, you can ensure access to the largest sector of today’s candidate pool while retaining the millennial employees who currently work with you.
The changing impact of millennials in the workforce
Over the last several years, millennials have left their mark on the workplace. Millennials have always demanded more work-life balance, flexible work schedules and better parental leave. When the pandemic hit, however, millennials’ priorities shifted overnight. Many workers were given remote work and flexible schedules. Suddenly, they could do a load of laundry, walk the dog or help with kids’ homework without leaving the “office” during the workday.
At the same time, employers were truly engaging with the millennial workforce. Companies realized that millennials were not fresh out of college anymore. Instead, employers began to see millennials as working parents, freelancers, entrepreneurs and digital nomads.
Millennial expectations changed, and the pandemic highlighted the new generational identity. For instance, where work-life balance used to mean less time working and more time hanging out with friends, it now meant having the time to jet off to stay in another state or hit the road in an RV with the family — while still being able to work each day. Millennials work to provide for themselves and their families and fuel their preferred lifestyles, not the other way around.
You can do several things to attract and retain millennial employees and keep them satisfied. Start by asking, “What do millennials want in a job?” A lot of these actions might be simple changes in company policy that can make a major difference. Here are some ways you can engage millennial workers, boost job satisfaction and ensure that they stick with your organization for the long term:
1. Prioritize remote (or hybrid) work models
Competitors that offer remote or hybrid work arrangements will be in much better positions to attract top talent than those that do not. Millennials care about working from home and have made it a priority in their job searches. Almost 85% of millennials said remote work was important in an Axios poll.
At the very least, you could offer a hybrid model that extends work-from-home periods. After all, millennials still want the flexibility to achieve some kind of work-life balance and take care of other responsibilities during the day.
Adding flexibility, such as remote work, is a great way to retain current employees as well. According to the ADP Research Institute, 64% of workers would look for a new job if they were asked to work from the office full-time. All it takes to avoid this risk is to evaluate remote working models and then make the shift when the timing is right. Be aware, though, that the time is now for millennial workers.
2. Offer flexible location options
Millennial employees also want the freedom to move to other cities or states and keep their roles, due largely to the pandemic migration. According to a survey by Bankrate, more than a quarter of millennials relocated either permanently or for an extended period during the pandemic, compared to 16 percent of all adults. Millennials left big cities to be near friends and family, live in more affordable places and seize different career opportunities.
Spotify met the moment and launched a “Work from Anywhere” program in February 2021, as well as flexible location options to accommodate employees who want to move. The company even offered to pay for co-working memberships for employees who relocate to an area that isn’t near a Spotify office and miss in-office work.
3. Make the work matter
When attracting and retaining millennial employees, your company can’t stop at remote work and flexible schedules. You should also help millennials find meaning in their roles. According to Gallup, millennials value specific aspects of the worker experience, including relationships with managers, role clarity, development opportunities and how their work affects their overall health and the well-being of others.
Aligning with their values is critical. A Deloitte report found that almost 40% of millennials and Gen Zers rejected a job because it did not match their values. Workers who are happy with their employers’ environmental and societal impact and inclusive culture are more likely to stay with their companies for more than five years. In other words, if you can’t connect millennials with the company’s vision and mission, they will look elsewhere.
At IES, we have all-staff quarterly update meetings where we review the company’s mission, vision and value statements. We’ve also asked employees to help create our mission, vision and values. Team members formed groups to help complete the mission statement and expand on our values to make them more meaningful and accessible to the whole team and build a greater connection to them.
When recruiting and building your company culture, remember to prioritize millennials for your organization’s success. Although it’s important to accommodate non-millennials, your company will get left behind without thinking about this generational group. Once you determine what drives millennial workers and incorporate these elements into your culture, you will be better positioned to attract and retain skilled workers from a larger talent pool.