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How to hold on to your millennials!

Every week, we visit many different companies: large public companies, mid-sized family businesses and also not for profit organizations. Lately, we have often been discussing how companies can better hold on to their prospective young talents. Because, money is available for everyone and machines can be bought on the free market. But eventually, it's the people that will make the difference within any company. In this new world of extreme competitiveness and 'wired customers', this is the major distinctive factor.

Still today, many Western companies are run by white men aged 45-60 with an economic or technical background. Often completed by a MBA obtained in a respected business school. This generation of executives has to take the decisions in order to hold on to the generation of millennials (born between 1975 – 1995, more or less) and to prepare them for their future responsibilities within the company. It is not their own generation, so empathy is key!

In our daily practice, we notice that millennials stick to the next five considerations when they need to take decisions about their life and career.

1. Lifelong learning. Millennials are not afraid of losing their job. They have never (really) been confronted with unemployment. They were born in times of material prosperity and are self-confident. They want answers to the following questions: “Can I develop my talents here?” "Is the company investing in me?” This generation has grown up with the concept of lifelong learning. Their formal and informal learning process is continuous. In this context, you should for instance ask yourself: “Does the company invest in coaches able to help the millennials to get the most out of their talents?” Does the company also show that it ‘puts the money where their mouth is?'.

2. “What's in it for me?” “What else can I learn here?” The management has to make sure that these millennials are sufficiently challenged. On the one hand, it is essential to offer them new challenges in time. On the other hand, you should avoid that these people take too much responsibility too soon.

3. Work life balance. “How can I combine my private life with my job? What is most important to the management: my presence or my output? In my experience, I know that the management needs to make considerable mental efforts to give up the old model. While, this other approach offers a cheap and effective way to better hold on to your millennials. Start managing on the output.

4. Next step. “Where is this job leading to?” Jobs for life don’t exist anymore. More often, millennials have a serial career during which they perform tasks for a particular company for a period of 4-6 years. In the beginning, millennials will thus already look further than the job they take. It is better to openly discuss this topic during the years. The fact that they move on when their task is finished, has nothing to do with disloyalty to the company.

5. Communication. Intensive communication about your company’s targets is required. Millennials don’t only look at the turnover and the profit to get inspired. “How does the company contribute to society? What does it represent?” Millennials are used to communicate continuously. Do the same! Elaborate some guidelines for the appropriate use of social media by the staff. Make sure your employees can be proud of the organization they are working for.

At the end of the day, holding on to your millennials is also an individual process. All managers should know what their employees are personally driven by. You can learn a lot more about that by asking them questions, for instance. If the direct boss can really get in touch with his/her direct reports, (s)he will be able to make the difference because the people will stay at the company.


By Paul Donkers

"my purpose is to help improve strategy execution, to create high performing teams and coach for effective business leaders"

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