In 2020 millennials will make up 46% of the workforce according to Forbes, yet we are hearing more and more senior management remarking that they can’t retain them. They have been raised in a world where information is available at a touch of a button, it’s mobile, constant and consistent. Gone are the days where an employee is contactable 9-5 and work is restricted to these times. Millennials enter the work force where they are contactable 24/7 and times of work and location are variable and extended. I am a millennial (born ’81-96)

Comparing education of millennials to the preceding generation, generation X, the millennials are educated to a higher level with 15% more graduates than generation X (although ask a Gen X or Boomer and you will hear them say that our exams were easier!). This comes with it advantages and disadvantages especially when comparing it to employer requirements. There is now a higher supply of graduates than ever before and graduate debt has soared at an even higher rate than the supply, with 2018 graduate leaving with an average debt in excess £40k. The average graduate starting salary in 2018 was £20,800. When asking my Gen X colleagues their graduate starting salaries were more like £25k, (Anna Johansson writes in Forbes that they are 20% lower than what the Baby boomers enjoyed.) With the increasing cost of housing and the age of retirement rising the average graduate will be working 47 years and this is expected to rise further.

With this in mind it is therefore reasonable that millennials want a career that will engage them, keep them learning and developing and allow them to ‘make an impact’. Companies also appear to want this for their employees, at what point in time does this disconnect happen? They want to be involved in decision making, be able to try new methods of working, take ownerships of tasks ‘make their impact’ from day one, however most companies expect at least 3 years of doing the entry level role before they can actually start to be involved in more engaging work, while the pay rises expected in these first few years as well tend to be around the £1,500.

Thirty years ago loyalty was prevalent across industry with many employees staying with companies for a whole career so to did opportunities reflect this, employees were promoted on merit and when there was a business need (not after they had finished their three year grad scheme) their pay rises were also on merit and reflected the value you bought to the business where as now they are commonly capped at incremental levels based on time done.

There is an assumption that the person with more experience has the better skillset than the less experienced team members, however we now have a generation of highly educated hungry graduates that believe they can do the job more effectively given the opportunity but they have to wait their time. 

As there is no loyalty in the employer–employee relationship any more it is hardly surprising that the millennial will disappear to the competitor offering a higher salary and more responsibility. Of course, it is important to note that many millennials have cited that salary is not the most important factor of their career, and they will choose development opportunities and job satisfaction over this.

So, in order to look at how to retain the millennial we first need to look at are we are recruiting the right person? Do we need someone with a certain level of education, or can the role be filled with some with a lower level education? We always state we want someone who is ambitious, driven and pro-active but then are surprised when they leave after they feel the employer isn’t fulfilling them. Does this role require ambition and drive? Some of the most satisfied and loyal employees are those that do not want to climb the corporate ladder, they want to finish their task and then go home with minimal stress.

Do the employees need to be occupied with low skilled work or could this be better placed somewhere else and free up more time for a millennial graduate to work on other projects beyond their capability with a safety net in place? Yet we are all grateful a recently qualified millennial pilot with less flying hours to their name would not be placed in as Captain a Boeing 747 on day one nor a Registrar as the lead surgeon on a complex operation. But in the right environment can they take ownership of tasks and projects earlier, accepting that this work will need to be checked on completion? Is it absolutely necessary to give time frames before progressing through the company or can the employer accept that a millennial will progress that the places right for both parties and allow the pay to reflect that?

The way in which technology has shaped the workplace must be taken into account with how we let Millennials work. We must encourage the work-life blend, promote and support flexibility to work remotely and not necessarily work in set hours. This is not just a millennial requirement but as we have more working parents in the workforce this is a benefit to older generations also.

Sarah Landrum writing in Inc identified 4 main advantages of flexible working;

  • Reduced costs or desk space, utilities and amenities – making flexible working part of the corporate culture enables you to reduce office space with some corporations only having a 70% of the desk space for employees by mandating 1 or 2 working from home days a week.
  • It increases the pool of available talent – people are no longer ruled out of a job because of the location and hours, this opens the job to a much larger recruiting pool.
  • Mental health improves – as employees have the ability to attend personal meetings in the week and do their work at other times it frees up time as does working from home, cutting out the 2 hour round trip commute enabling workers to have more sleep, time for exercise and family and just generally feel more relaxed.
  • Increased productivity – When the focus becomes on completing work effectively and not on attendance the worker becomes motivated on completing work to the high standard and not the perception or attendance. Numerous studies have shown that flexible working has increased productivity. Forbes magazine 9-month study period reported that flexible workers; achieved more, were off sick less, worked longer hours and were happier in their work.

Having explored the retention issues with millennials, engaging this complex generation and retaining their skills needs analysis…. if we are recruiting the right millennials for that specific job and it is pitched at the right level, can the employer look at tailoring progression and pay to the individual instead of boxing millennials in to set packages with no individuality and finally is the role as flexible as it can be to keep millennials engaged and satisfied.