4 Priorities for Attracting and Retaining Millennials


Posted In: Workforce Insight

Apr • 19 • 2017

four priorities for attracting and retaining millenials

By 2020, millennials will make up more than one-third of the global workforce. That means you’ll have to hire millennials. But, multiple surveys have found that millennials are looking for several key qualities in the workplace and are willing to change jobs until they find them. Competitive pay, opportunities for learning, timely feedback, and flexible schedules are the priorities, and businesses need to provide them if they want to succeed in the tightening labor market.


Defining millennials


To approach the challenge of what millennials want, businesses must understand what a millennial is. Definitions vary. In some studies, millennials are defined as people born between 1980 and 2000.


In general, millennials grew up with technology, using it as a regular part of life and education. Many entered the workforce during the economic upheaval of the dot-com crash, the housing market crash, and the rise of global terrorist organizations. Those factors have colored their approach to work and how they behave in the workplace.


In a Forbes article on millennials and leadership, Josh Bersin, founder of the HR strategy firm Bersin by Deloitte, outlines the situation for talent development leaders: “Your ability to attract, develop, and retain young leaders will make or break your company in the coming years.” Fortunately, employers already have many of the tools to accomplish this if they’re willing to adjust the status quo.


1. Competitive pay


Popular wisdom suggests millennials care more about the impact they can make in a job than about pay. However, that philosophy may be shifting. A 2015 PricewaterhouseCoopers survey found that 59 percent of millennials sought employers whose values matched theirs, down from 88 percent in 2008.


Contrary to the stereotypes, millennials are just as interested in making money as previous generations. That makes sense when weighed against the rise in average college debt and general cost of living. In Manpower Group’s Millennial Careers: 2020 Vision report, 92 percent of millennials said money was the most important factor in their job search. However, companies that can’t offer six-figure starting salaries can compete by meeting other criteria.


2. Opportunities for learning and advancement


Career progression is the top priority for 52 percent of millennials according to PricewaterhouseCoopers, while the Manpower survey finds that  93 percent see ongoing skills development as a way to advance their careers. It may be unsurprising that in the same survey, four out of five millennials named the opportunity to learn new skills as a top factor when considering a new job, and 22 percent intend to take an extended break from work to gain those skills.


Ninety-three percent, according to Manpower, are prepared to spend their own money to expand their education or skill sets. An employer willing to fund them is an attractive prospect. When asked to name the top benefits they wanted from a company, millennials put excellent training and development programs at the top of the list, according to the PricewaterhouseCoopers Millennials at Work report.


3. Timely feedback from leadership


Millennials want to know how well they’re performing at work and prefer constant feedback and guidance to ensure they are meeting expectations and contributing to the team. Says Josh Bersin, “Millennials grew up in glass houses. They are comfortable with transparency. They believe leadership should be the same.”


Findings from the PricewaterhouseCoopers NextGen study support his view. It found that 41 percent of millennials prefer to be recognized for their work on a monthly basis, if not more frequently. The Millennials at Work survey found that 51 percent of millennials said feedback should be given frequently or continually on the job.


This desire is sometimes characterized as “needy” by managers. However, millennials often see it as a time saver. They want to be corrected as soon as possible if something isn’t working. Forty-four percent of millennials who meet regularly with their bosses feel engaged compared to 20 percent who don’t get regular meetings, according to a Gallup poll.


Feedback doesn’t necessarily have to come from a manager. Three-fourths of millennials say they would like to have a mentor at work. One-on-one mentoring and coaching can go a long way toward making millennials feel supported.


4. Flexible schedules


Technology has blurred the line between work and home, at a time when the demands of work are rising. In an Ernst & Young survey, 47 percent of millennials at the management level reported an increase in work hours.


In the Millennials at Work survey, 95 percent said work-life balance is important to them, while 79 percent of respondents in the Manpower survey named flexibility as one of their top priorities when looking for a job. MTV’s No Collar Workers Survey found that 81 percent of millennials want to make their own hours.


The PwC NextGen study found that 64 percent of millennials would like to occasionally work from home, and 66 percent would like to shift their work hours. Interestingly, technology is affecting non-millennials as well. They were just as likely to wish for flexible schedules and shifted work hours.


What this means for training managers


The distinction between millennials and their older counterparts may be a product of age difference rather than a systemic generational shift, but change is inevitable. After all, baby boomers are aging out of the workforce, and Generation X won’t be far behind.


A survey from the Agency Management Institute called an employer’s ability to provide learning and growth opportunities “the single most important consideration in terms of job satisfaction for every group” regardless of their generation.


To meet the needs of the changing workforce, training managers need to introduce multi-level development plans, including in-person and online training, educational opportunities, mentoring, and near-instant feedback.


Emma Gallimore is a freelance writer with a degree in journalism from the University of Maine. She reports on trends affecting the education, business, health, and technology sectors.