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Holding on to the keepers

How to keep the Millennial employees you worked so hard to hire

by Mary Jawgiel

Employee turnover is expensive and wasteful. It’s especially disheartening when the vanishing employee is an 18- to 34-year-old who was hard to recruit in the first place and may have a bright future at your company if only they would stick around. But as employers in every industry are discovering, Millennials, unlike previous generations, will quickly move on if their needs are not being met. Studies show the amount of time Millennials stay at a company is two to five years. Loyalty to an organization is not one of their strong suits.

This younger generation is very well educated, self-confident and has high expectations of the workplace and its offerings. If organizations are not willing to adapt to the new kids in the workforce, millions of dollars could be sacrificed in lost productivity and additional recruitment fees.

So, what do these Generation Y workers really want from an employer?

Work-life balance. Many Millennials value flexibility even more than pay, having seen their Boomer parents put in 60- and 70-hour weeks and miss out on important family time. Offering flexible work schedules that will allow time to lead fulfilling lives is extremely important to this generation. Millennials will work hard and live up to their responsibilities on their own schedule, given a chance. Try this: If a project wraps up at 3:00 p.m. and there is nothing pressing to be done, give your Millennial employee the opportunity to decide whether or not to leave a little early, then start a little earlier the next day. You might be surprised at how much weight a flex time benefit like this will carry with Millennials.

Technology. This generation is totally comfortable with technology – they have grown up with it. They use technology to stay connected throughout the day (yes, even while at work). They expect to have the latest technology available to them at the workplace (they probably already have it for their personal use). Employers who want to keep their Millennial workers cannot expect them to use outdated computers, fax machines or wired anything. One way to help Millennials feel valued is to involve them in your technology needs or encourage them to reverse-mentor older workers in technology training.

Meaningful work. Millennials want to be proud of the organization they work for and they want to grow and develop (yes, that means get promoted) fast. Millennials need to know what the future holds for them at your organization. Put together a career path to
demonstrate their options down the road within your organization. Make sure they understand the big picture “good in the world” your company contributes.

Companies that are successful in retaining Millennials have a plan. It begins with the hiring process. Create job postings that feature work-life balance, technology and meaningful work in the posting. Post your ad to a job board designed to attract Millennials (like the new ICP Job Board at

Then, once you have your new Millennial employee on board, assign an internal mentor to the new hire. This generation wants information in small bits, not lengthy meetings, so use shorter new employee orientation sessions that cover one or two things and schedule several meetings to cover all the material. Or better yet, build an online training program and turn it into some type of a game with prizes for completing sections within a certain time frame.

Recognizing that relationships are important to Millennials, savvy companies encourage interaction throughout the company and various departments to create opportunities for new hires to meet and get to know as many other employees as possible. If Millennials can build strong relationships with other employees, they may think twice about leaving for another position.

Work atmosphere is important to Millennials – they are into “fun.” They want to interact with people and technology and keep busy. Not everything in the work world can be considered fun, but it can be engaging.

In an effort to engage the Millennial workforce, some organizations are offering social opportunities like ice-cream socials, Nerf fights and after-hours excursions to promote team building and reduce stress. Google has installed Napping Pods to ensure their employees are rested. (Okay, that may be going a bit beyond what most companies can do, but research does show that a short midday nap can boost productivity).

Make sure your Millennials know you care about them – provide them with frequent, positive feedback (Millennials don’t handle criticism well, but then, who does?). Offer them flexible work hours. And remind them that they are important to your business and to you. Give them access to all the personnel in your company. You will increase the probability of them staying with your organization longer.

What to learn more about keeping your Millennial workers at your company longer? I recommend the book Keeping The Millennials – Why Companies Are Losing Billions in Turnover to This Generation and What To Do About It, by Dr. Joanne G. Sujansky, CSP and Dr. Jan Ferri-Reed. (John Wiley & Sons, Inc. 2009).

Mary JawgielMary Jawgiel is ICP program director for the PTDA Foundation and has recently overseen the launch of the new ICP Job Board at (Click on the Jobs tab to explore). Mary’s life-long passion has been working with young people and she has spent her entire adult life attracting graduates to careers that become life-long passions for them. Industrial Careers Pathway® (ICP) is a cross-industry initiative supported by the ISA Foundation, NAHAD: The Association for Hose and Accessories Distribution and the PTDA Foundation. For more insights on recruiting, hiring and training Millennials in the distribution industry, subscribe to the
ICP Talent Tipsheet at

This article originally appeared in the July/August 2012 issue of Industrial Supply magazine. Copyright 2012, Direct Business Media.


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