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Harnessing the Power and Passion of Millennials

The generation born between 1980 and 2000 is poised to constitute the majority of the global workforce, so employers need to understand how to attract, retain and motivate them.

By Jane Seago

By 2020, estimates indicate that millennials will constitute 35 percent of the global workforce. That may be a source of concern to employers who have seen negative stereotypes attributed to that population by various researchers. “There’s no shortage of surveys and articles about millennials, often claiming they’re disloyal, self-absorbed and lazy,” notes Nicole Francis, Managing Director, Centers of Recruiting Excellence (CORE), Manpower. “However, the truth is very different.”

Francis’s assessment springs from Manpower’s recent survey of 19,000 millennials in 25 countries, across all professions and education levels, asking what they look for in a job, what development opportunities they seek and what would make them stay with an employer. The resulting report, “Millennials Careers: 2020 Vision,” reveals millennials’ drivers and preferences, and provides insights into how to capture the strength and passion of these workers for the benefit of the business.

Offer career security

Millennials seek variety but the majority expect to advance with the same employer. In fact, 87 percent of the survey respondents rated security among the top five priorities in a job. They may define security more in terms of career, rather than job, but they watched their parents deal with increasingly less secure jobs during the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s. Millennials also entered the labor market during a global recession, so they do value security.

Demonstrate that staying with the company can lead to career enhancement by sharing examples of employees who have progressed through various levels of training and responsibility in the organization.

Focus on career mobility and growth

Millennials work hard but they do not want to stagnate or become bored. They value working with great people (80 percent picked it as a top priority in a job) and welcome both variety and diversity. They also seek the opportunity to develop their skills. “For millennials, skills are the new currency. Ninety-three percent want to continue upskilling and will even do so in their own time and on their own dime,” says Francis.

Offer millennials the opportunity to work on different projects with different teams within the company. Allow them to build experience and networks across the organization, and invest in training and creating ways to learn on the job.

Pay attention and show appreciation

Millennials do not want to work in a vacuum. They value regular conversations about career opportunities, obstacles and developmental areas. They savor recognition, so much so that half would consider a lack of appreciation grounds for leaving a job.

Hold regular discussions with millennials about their career path and development. Highlight how their work will enhance their career prospects and long-term employability. Replace the annual review with a focus on near-term objectives and plans to achieve them. Offer frequent, face-to-face affirmation and encourage managers and peers to do the same.

Prepare for breaks

Millennials have every intention of taking breaks in their careers; 86 percent selected time off as one of their top five priorities in a job. They know they will be working a long time — Francis notes that “early retirement with a gold watch at 50 or even 60 is an antique attitude.” Given the “career ultramarathons” ahead of them, they consider time to refuel and refresh essential.

Make breaks an acceptable part of company culture. Be clear on what and how much flexibility you can offer and help people re-enter the workforce upon their return.

Be flexible about work arrangements

Millennials tend to prefer full-time work (73 percent are in full-time jobs now), but half are also open to alternatives like part-time, freelance or gig work. They are comfortable with disruption and new challenges, so change does not daunt them.

Evaluate the impact of employees working offsite or during nontraditional hours, and, as feasible, offer greater flexibility in where, when and how people work. Make available a variety of projects to satisfy their need for change and continued relevance in the changing world of work.

YPO is the premier global leadership organization for more than 27,000 chief executives in over 130 countries and the global platform for them to engage, learn and grow. YPO members harness the knowledge, influence and trust of the world’s most influential and innovative business leaders to inspire business, personal, family and community impact. Today, YPO member-run companies, diversified among industries and types of businesses, employ more than 22 million people globally and generate USD9 trillion in annual revenues.