Millennials Series: It’s Not All About the Benjamins

Millennials Seek Purpose and Desire Innovation in Their Careers

Millennials, those 83 million Americans born between 1982 – 2002 and ranging roughly from 17-37 years old, have been called many things, some characterizations not so flattering. But in a world where businesses compete for talent at every level, Millennials cannot be ignored.

This blog is the first in a series of five posts, each focused on getting inside the mind of a prospective millennial hire or current colleague, so you can effectively recruit, retain and promote from within this misunderstood generation. This is no easy task for a group of people that has a somewhat well-earned reputation of job hopping.

But if you take the claim that “the cost of replacing a millennial employee ranges from $15,000 to $20,000” at face value, you must focus on strategies for the long-term success of millennial employees.

Who Are the Millennials?

Millennials, once known as Gen Y, proceeded by Gen X and followed by Gen Z, surpassed the baby boomers in 2016 to become the largest living generation in the US. Most importantly, they are quickly becoming the fastest-growing segment of the workforce. Therefore, if you’re in a business with short- or long-term hiring plans, you need to understand their attitudes, wants and motivations.

One article states millennials earn the labels “narcissistic, lazy, coddled, a bit delusional,” but also offers positive descriptors of the group, noting they’re more open-minded and supportive of equality for minorities and the LGBTQ population. Other descriptors include “confident, self-expressive, liberal, upbeat and receptive to new ideas and ways of living.”

Millennials have all these qualities and more—in this blog, we’ll focus on how they seek purpose and desire innovation.

A Purposeful Life

Achievement-oriented millennials seek meaningful work directly tied to a larger corporate goal. It’s imperative, therefore, to explain how an individual’s day-to-day contributions support big-picture objectives. Another tactic is to include millennials on multi-generational teams all focused on the same goal. Make sure job descriptions stress a job’s meaning and purpose and how applicants can grow within the company.

A Biz Journal article states Zappos, the popular online shoe and clothing retailer, “provides the training and mentorship required so that any employee can become a senior leader within five to seven years”—with certifications + pay bumps throughout the process. That’s millennial motivation at its finest.

Recognizing accomplishments publicly also makes millennials feel their work is important, like PwC’s milestone rewards program. In a world where social media makes all aspects of life public, companies like PwC harness the power of the “Like” to enhance productivity.

Keep in mind part of being achievement-oriented means millennials maintain high expectations of their employers and will challenge authority. But their desire for new work challenges and a healthy learning curve just may make it worth bending your hard and fast ways.

The Ultimate Innovators

Interested in results? Offer millennials the opportunity to shine by challenging them to research, problem solve and unravel internal issues. Encourage millennials to be what one article calls intrapreneurs—”highly self-motivated and action-orientated employees who focus on innovation and problem solving within a company.” Taking this approach satisfies millennials’ need for innovative stimulation and meaningful work—and just may impact your company’s bottom line.

The numbers reveal innovation’s importance: 54 percent of millennials want to start their own company, and 78 percent of millennials see innovation as critical factor of where they work.

To quench their innovative thirst, properly outfit your millennials for success. Ensure they have the technological tools they need,  such as apps, online portals or other tools. Remember these folks are ultra tech-savvy, normally spending 5-10 hours per day consuming online content.

Millennial Maintenance

Demonstrating a job’s meaning to the company and promoting innovation and technology are imperative to attracting, securing and retaining millennial employees. Next month, we’ll review how millennials revel in team work and shared learning.