4 Reasons Why You Might Be Struggling To Retain Millennials And Gen Z Employees

October 7, 2019
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If you’re struggling to retain Millennial and Gen Z employees, you’re not alone. Millennials and Gen Z are far more critical and demanding of their employers than previous generations. This is partially due to the current job market, where they’re able to find a new job with relative ease, and partially due to their desire to drive change and not settle for the status quo.

Even with demanding employees, retaining Millennial and Gen Z talent isn’t nearly as complicated as you might think. These are the top four reasons why companies struggle to retain employees, with insight into how each issue can be improved.

There isn’t a clear path for advancement.

Millennials are notoriously career change hungry, and often believe they’re ready for a promotion after just a few short months at work. When their expectations of rapid advancement aren’t met, they’ll start to look for a new opportunity. Most of the time, a path for advancement is available but the employee isn’t aware of it. By illustrating options for career paths, Millennials will be able to see themselves staying at the company longer and are therefore less likely to look around for greener pastures.

The key is to not only tell them about opportunities but to set clear expectations on what’s needed for advancement as well as a timeframe estimate. When they know that an opportunity takes an average of ten months to achieve, they’ll be less frustrated when their request to get promoted after three months is denied.

Managers should sit down with their teams to find out what each employee is looking for in terms of advancement. Not everyone is looking to join the C-Suite or even become a supervisor. Unfortunately, sometimes it’s the top performer who’s one of those people. The tendency would be to have them on a leadership track, but if it’s not what they want, you’d be wasting time and resources that would be better allocated to someone who does have the desire to climb the ranks.

Learning and development opportunities are scarce.

Learning and development is a top priority for both Millennials and Gen Z, coming in third just behind fair pay and opportunities for advancement, according to a global survey conducted by Deloitte. These two generations are eager to grow and develop and place a high value on learning. There are many ways to address this need, and it can be done on any budget. The most common options are formal training sessions, online or app-based learning, and mentoring and peer to peer knowledge exchanges.

If you only implement one of these programs, it absolutely must be mentoring. Mentoring encourages employees to share their knowledge, effectively bridging gaps between generations and bringing employees closer together, as well as ensuring that knowledge from senior employees who might be retiring soon isn’t lost when they leave. In addition to traditional mentoring, reverse mentoring where a junior employee mentors a senior employee should also be a part of your program. Reverse mentoring helps build confidence in younger employees and helps promote a sense of equality in the workplace.

Feedback only happens twice per year.

Frequent feedback is something that both Millennials and Gen Z demand, and for good reason. When feedback is given consistently and correctly, it helps employees develop and grow. When feedback is sporadic and only comes in the form of twice per year performance reviews, it’s essentially meaningless and is of very little benefit to employees. Feedback is essential for employee growth and development, regardless of their generation.

Why do Millennials and Gen Z crave more feedback than older generations of employees? It has a lot to do with their schooling. They were raised in a world where praise was handed out freely and straight up critiques were seldom heard. In school, feedback came in the form of positive reinforcement from both parents and teachers. Often students were told that their best effort was enough and would be given opportunities to gain points through extra credit to balance out a poor initial grade. They need feedback in the workplace to help them learn that extra credit doesn’t exist in the workplace.

There’s no flexibility in working arrangements.

Flexible work arrangements are incredibly important to all employees, not just Millennials and Gen Z. However, Millennials are the ones who have spoken up about this issue and are therefore the most disappointed when flexibility isn’t an option. They see the lines between work and life being increasingly blurred, and strive for work to be integrated into their lives.

Flexibility doesn’t mean that employees can come and go from the office as they please – it simply means that there’s some freedom as to when and where they do their work. If there’s no need for an employee to be in the office from 9:00am to 5:00pm, what harm is done by allowing them to work from 8:00am to 4:00pm? By allowing them to leave an hour earlier, perhaps they’d be able to pick up their kids from school every day instead of having to pay for childcare. That employee would be much happier and likely more productive at work, a win-win for everyone.

If you need any more motivation to improve upon these issues, know this: paying attention to these factors will not only improve Millennial and Gen Z retention, but will also increase employee engagement across all generations.

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