Having worked in university career services for more than a decade and with college students in various capacities for much longer, I've interacted with older millennials, younger millennials, and everything in between.
Millennials are generally defined as those born between 1980 and 2000. For me and my fellow Generation X colleagues, as well as our Baby Boomer teammates, many of the people we consider when hiring for entry-level jobs — and who we work with currently and might classify as "young professionals" — are millennials.
When prepping for this article, a Google search for "How to Recruit and Retain Millennial Talent" resulted in almost 450,000 results. Most of the results focus on the same few tips related to things like flexibility, professional development, feedback and technology. I also did some additional research and reached out to my own personal network.
I found that the things millennials say they are looking for and value in a job are similar to the things other generations would say they also value. In addition to having a job that pays the bills, most people, regardless of generation, want to make a contribution at work and know their work is valued. Most people want to have time available to pursue interests outside of work. Most people want to work for an organization with a mission they can believe in.
Before sharing my list of tips, I think it's important to provide a quick reality check to any employers out there. Recruiting is the easy part, with the right outreach plan and available budget. It's the retaining part that's hard. Many of us in the "over 40" crowd need to redefine what we mean by retain. I've learned to accept that if I hire a new professional, train them and have them provide top-notch service for two years, that's a win. Especially if they move on to bigger and better things. Ideally, those bigger and better things will be within my organization, but in reality, that depends on things like budget and head count.
If you are really looking to retain your millennials, here are some quick tips, along with some tidbits of what not to do. But remember — everyone is unique and a one-size-fits-all approach usually doesn't work.
1. Listen to them and respond appropriately. Don't ever say "this is how we've always done it." Don't be put off by them asking "why?", because they are going to. If you don't have an answer, then maybe it's time to reconsider your reasoning. They may have your next best new idea — but you have to be open to it.
2. Find something to appreciate about them. Something real. A millennial contact shared that she worked in a firm with a couple of partners who were "in their early forties." She shared that they would occasionally thank her just for showing up to work — like a participation award. In her words, it made her feel very underestimated.
3. Mentor and coach them. Share information about your own path. Be candid. Most millennials I've encountered really seem to appreciate hearing about our challenges, how we overcame them and about how we made our own career decisions. Trust is extremely important and they can know when you're not being authentic. They crave transparency and it starts with you.
4. Provide them with opportunities for professional development. If your staff members leave because they are awesome and getting promoted (in your organization or elsewhere), that's a wonderful reflection of you! Invest in them and they will invest in you — until it's time to move on. One millennial I surveyed confessed leaving a previous position because she was being held back professionally. Don't make that mistake!
Lisa Garza is the Director of the Career Connections Center at Texas Woman's University and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.