The Leadership Insiders network is an online community where the most thoughtful and influential people in business contribute answers to timely questions about careers and leadership. Today’s answer to the question, “How can you help millennials feel like they’re part of the company?” is written by Suzanne Dowd Zeller, chief human resources officer for Allianz Life.
Millennials now surpass baby boomers by half a million people, taking the role of the nation’s largest living generation. This millennial boom has major implications for society, and employers are no exception. Millennial employees bring new skills and an appetite for innovation; they also are more willing to move between companies compared to the generation before them. The boomer model of staying with the same company for 30-plus years is a thing of the past.
With this in mind, employers need to shift their practices to build loyalty, thus retaining millennials and creating a stronger workforce. While there are many ways to start making this shift, here are two key steps that employers can take to support and retain millennials:
Offer unique benefits
Because millennials are a core, growing part of today’s workforce, they are pushing employers to rethink the benefits they offer. As always, to be competitive companies need to provide common benefits like paid vacation, health insurance, and retirement contributions to entice millennials, but employers should also offer extra benefits to show millennials that their company respects their lives outside of work.
Perks like on-site childcare, an on-site fitness facility, pet insurance, travel discounts, credit union memberships, paid sabbaticals, or paid volunteer time can create opportunities for millennial employees to connect their personal lives with their work. Millennials also want to see their employer make a positive charitable impact on the community around them.
Millennials also differ in how they want to spend their time during their working years. A recent Allianz study found that nearly seven in 10 millennials prefer to “explore, experiment and travel” prior to retirement, rather than the traditional model of working for 30 years and then traveling and exploring in later years. To retain top millennial talent, employers need to create business models that support their employees’ desire to take time off, have a positive work-life balance, or work longer and retire later.
Cultivate future leaders
Another key element to supporting millennial employees is ensuring development programs are in place to create the leaders of tomorrow. A 2017 Deloitte study on millennials in the workplace found that 63% of millennials felt their leadership skills were not being developed. What’s more, 71% of employees in the study who were most likely to leave their companies in the next two years were unhappy with how their leadership skills were being developed. This supports the idea that the availability of leadership development programs is a deciding factor in whether a millennial employee will stay with an organization.
No matter the role, employees should have programs that allow them to develop their leadership skills. Offer courses that support individual contributors and people leaders. The most successful programs also provide opportunities for millennial employees to manage projects that involve cross-company initiatives and gain visibility with senior leaders. They should also build leadership acumen for each management level. Offer specific programs focused on new managers, experienced managers, and senior or executive level managers.
Remember, it’s critical to not only offer these programs, but clearly publicize them within your organization. If employees, millennials especially, don’t see the programs available, they’ll look elsewhere for development opportunities.
With the right combination of unique benefits and development options, your company will be a stronger, more resilient, and innovative workplace for millennial employees. Because this generation is fundamentally shifting the way people work, employers who adapt to meet the needs of millennials will be well-positioned to become employers of choice for the next generation.