Friday July 31, 2015
I don’t buy the millennial stereotype. Where others see needy, entitled slackers, I see creative, performance-driven entrepreneurial spirits. In other words, exactly what small businesses need.
I believe in millennials so much that I’ve built my company, AllProWebTools, around them. They challenge me every day to question the way things are done, and they set a very high standard for themselves.
Small business owners can’t afford to ignore millennials. They have a lot to offer, and, quite frankly, soon they’ll make up the vast majority of the workforce. But attracting and keeping young talent can be tricky. Millennials have proven that they have different criteria when looking for a job than older generations and that they’re unwilling to stick with a job that isn’t satisfying.
So, what’s the trick to engaging, attracting, and retaining loyal millennial employees?
Here are the main things I’ve found that millennials are looking for in the workplace, whether they’re looking for a new position or deciding whether or not to move on. Make sure your business is the kind they move on to, not move on from.
Build a Development Program
The number one thing my millennial employees care about is opportunities to grow their skills. They’re passionate about pushing themselves to fill new roles, and they are constantly learning. In this study on millennials, about 65% of respondents said opportunity for development is the number one factor that helps them decide which jobs to apply for and ultimately accept.
As a business owner, the only reaction that makes sense is to offer them all the development opportunities I can. It keeps them happy and loyal, but it also turns them into more valuable contributors.
Formalizing your development program might seem like a daunting task, but there are some easy ways to get started:
- Encourage strong bonds between managers and employees
- Interview millennials about their strengths, weaknesses, and skill areas they want to improve, then set goals together
- Let them mentor older employees on technology
- Support volunteering
- Choose a few key professional development conferences, events, or seminars to include them in
People who call millennials “needy” for seeking out mentorship and guidance are missing a huge opportunity to earn loyal, empowered, skilled employees. Millennials have the drive to improve—all they need are tools and opportunities from you.
Another millennial stereotype that I don’t understand is the perception that they are lazy for not wanting to work in the office 9-5 Monday through Friday like generations before them. The traditional “work week” is really pretty arbitrary—it’s more for convenience and ease of communication than anything else.
But communication technology has improved to the point where people can seamlessly communicate across oceans in real time. Communication is now extremely flexible and intertwined with day-to-day life. Work schedules need to follow suit.
Many of my employees are night owl creative types who like to roll into work around 10:30 and leave well after dark. Many work from home part of the time. I’m happy to let them, because they know when and where they’re most productive.
Offering flexible hours can help attract millennial employees, but it also helps keep them on board. It sends a message of trust, which I’ve always found millennials respond well to.
Set Clear Expectations
Many employers are confused by two seemingly conflicting desires of millennials: flexibility and clear expectations. In hiring millennials, that simply means a clear job description. But what about retention? The answer for AllProWebTools as a company has been communication.
I’ve found that millennial employees respond well to high-level, results-oriented expectations. However, they like to decide how and on what schedule the work gets done. Offering both flexibility and clear expectations has just been a question of finding the right communication tools.
Flexibility always means more communication, not less. Here are some of the tools we use to keep everyone on the same page:
- Tasking system with priority levels, deadlines, and time limits
- Live internal chat
- Detailed timecard notes of daily activity
All of these tools help keep communication between managers and employees high, allowing everyone to be flexible and accountable.
Make Transparency Policy
Transparency is about more than just communication. It’s about information flowing freely and being highly visible. Millennials value this extremely highly.
Because we’re a company of mostly millennials, transparency is literally built into our company. AllProWebTools revolves around a transparency tool called the Workflow Timeline, a live feed of all the business’s important updates. That includes sales, customer relationship management notes, other employees’ timecard notes, all office tasks, and much more.
Of course, you can choose which elements you make visible to your employees, but I’m committed to putting it all on the table for them, down to revenues and labor costs.
This works well for a number of reasons:
- Helps millennials understand their role in the big picture of the company
- Fosters independent collaboration
- Creates a virtual workplace for remote workers
- Encourages a results-driven culture
All of these are major boxes to be checked for job-hunting millennials, who by and large aren’t interested in being cogs in machines they don’t understand.
Invest in Technology
There are countless reasons why technology should be a priority for your business. A major one is that up-to-date technology helps you attract and retain millennials.
Millennials very rightly recognize that using technology wisely allows them to focus on the parts of their work that are truly engaging and productive. You can’t grow if you’re too busy maintaining, and millennials see this intuitively.
Which is why, if your business doesn’t have a website and you’re relying on complex systems of spreadsheets to track company data, millennials won’t take you seriously.
A strong online presence makes your business seem more reputable to potential hires. But that’s not enough. Millennials will also want to know what technology you use internally to eliminate busywork and help them get to the heart of issues they’re passionate about solving.
If you give millennials the flexibility, tools, and development to turn their passion into results, you will be rewarded with loyal employees that are incredibly valuable. Millennials aren’t lazy, disloyal, or entitled. They just aren’t willing to put up with the same old nonsense. There’s a lot they have to learn, but I maintain that we can learn just as much from them.
Do you hire millennials in your small business? What do you see as the keys to keeping them engaged? Let me know in the comments!