When it comes to work, do you value purpose over salary? Growth over comfort? Do you want your leaders to empower rather than instruct you? Are you more comfortable with casual check-in conversations than a formal annual performance evaluation? Do you prefer to focus on your strengths rather than your weaknesses? Does your life take precedence over your career?
Then you might be a Millennial—or at least you’re attuned to the same values identified as characteristic of Generation Y in a recent Gallup report titled “How Millennials Want to Work and Live.”
According to William Strauss and Neil Howe—the authors credited with coining the term “Millennials”—the generation born roughly between 1980 and 2000 is globally conscious and civic-minded. They care more about community than personal advancement. This concern for larger causes has also earned them the sobriquet Echo Boomers.
Generation Me author Jean Twenge and other critics question the altruistic traits Strauss and Howe associate with Millennials in Generations: The History of America’s Future, 1584 to 2069, finding them instead to exhibit a greater sense of entitlement and narcissism.
Wherever you fall on the debate, there’s no denying Millennials are seeking something deeper from their work, and that is why employers that offer meaningful roles are more likely to secure the loyalty of job-hopping Gen Yers.
Whereas past generations aimed to land a good-paying job where they could climb the corporate ladder over the course of their career, Millennials are likelier to switch jobs in search of more gratifying opportunities. The Gallup report reveals that 6 out of 10 Millennials express a willingness to change jobs, and as many as 21 percent have changed jobs within the past year—triple the number reported by other generations.
Generation Y job-hopping costs the US economy an estimated $30.5 billion. That fact combined with their lower workplace engagement—only 29% are engaged, Gallup says—make it imperative for organizations to find ways of appealing to Millennials.
- Prioritize purpose over pay. Fair compensation is important, but meaning matters more. Gen Yers would rather work at a job that pays less but makes them feel they are contributing to a good cause and helping the larger world. Unless your Millennial employees feel inspired by the mission of the organization, connected to the culture and creatively challenged by their responsibilities, they’re going to seek out more fulfilling jobs.
- Offer development opportunities. Millennials want to grow both personally and professionally. They’re less interested in perks like pool tables and espresso machines than in learning new skills and acquiring knowledge.
- Be a coach—not a boss. This shift from an autocratic leadership style to a collegial, empowering one benefits not only Millennials but all employees. People automatically become more engaged when leaders recognize and develop their strengths, making them feel more valued while helping them become better individuals.
- Converse rather than assess. Reared on social media, Generation Y takes a more casual approach to communication. They don’t want to wait a year to get feedback during a formal annual review—they desire ongoing discussions so they constantly know where they stand and how they can improve.
- Focus on strengths instead of weaknesses. Rather than dwelling on weaknesses, discover your employees’ strengths and cultivate those talents. Gallup notes, “weaknesses never develop into strengths, while strengths develop infinitely.” That’s not to say organizations should pretend the weaknesses don’t exist. A leader who understands their employees’ abilities and flaws can redefine individual roles to minimize weaknesses and maximize strengths across the collective whole.
- Create jobs they love. More than previous generations, Millennials identify their work with their lives. They want to know they are spending their hours wisely and doing fulfilling work at a company that appreciates them as human beings.
By understanding the work and life goals of Gen Yers, you can attract the brightest young stars to your organization—and keep them there. Unattached, connected, unconstrained, and idealistic, Millennials will flourish in a culture that treasures their strengths, gives them a sense of purpose and drives them to be their best selves.