Millennials are not afraid to change jobs. They have done so at three times the rate of previous generations in the past year. And only half report planning to be with their current employer in one year. While these statistics are daunting, properly equipped organizations can still create the dynamic, fulfilling career that millennials are seeking.
Are you prepared to lose half of your millennial workforce?
If not, read ahead:
Understand your employees' impact
Building a mission-driven culture is about creating an environment that draws out the best of your employees. This begins with knowing who they are, what ignites them, and what brings them satisfaction.
The BetterUp Meaning and Purpose at Work report found that 90% of employees surveyed would trade a portion (23% on average) of their lifetime earnings for more meaningful work. They would also work an extra hour each week and take two fewer days of paid leave per year. And most importantly, those who feel their work is meaningful are more likely to be satisfied, therefore, more productive.
Given the workplace statistics, it is clear that we need to discover new methods of leadership and apply them more systematically to elevate well-being and performance. In this context, businesses must serve a mission beyond than revenue generation. They must be mindful of how to effectively influence this growing network of millennials and prioritize them.
Your company probably has a mission statement that was carefully crafted. Some examples are:
Life is Good: "To spread the power of optimism."
Warby Parker: "To offer designer eyewear at a revolutionary price, while leading the way for socially conscious businesses."
Google: “To organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.”
But how many of your employees actually know the mission statement? How many think about it every day? To build a mission-driven culture, your employees need to think about the consequences of their role and work every single day. If your employees do not think about your mission every day, that is not their mission.
Any actionable project requires purpose. Perhaps you want to simplify your life by automating your finances. Maybe you want to help your children understand their strengths. You may want to share your knowledge of how to travel affordably so others can do the same. Your employees must also operate with purpose in order to derive meaning and fulfillment from their work. Part of creating a mission-driven culture is helping your employees understand the impact of their work.
Exercise: Have a sampling of your employees write down how they impact the company mission. Have them write down how their work on a daily, weekly, monthly basis ties into the mission of the company. You may be surprised by what they say.
Assign tasks based on strengths
People want to enjoy the work they do. You want your employees to work on things they like doing. If your employees hate 50% of the things that they do, you should not expect them to be at your company in a year.
Doing something you are not gifted at is draining and frustrating. People want to work on things they are already good at. They want to grow those skills. And you should want them to as well for two reasons.
- The more people improve their strengths, the more they improve that strength in your business.
- The more opportunity people are given the grow existing strengths, the more fulfilled and committed they are
To improve employee retention, help your employees grow in areas they are skilled in and passionate about. They will be better equipped to determine how those skills can further the corporate mission than you.
To clarify, this is not to say that employees should not be challenged to grow in new areas. Exploration can reveal strengths that were previously undiscovered!
Understand their perspective
Think about all the things that frustrate you about your job. Does it sometimes feel like you don't get paid enough to deal with it? Your employees probably feel the same way.
Think about the triggers that lead to frustration at your own job. Does the workload feel like too much sometimes? Do you want growth opportunities that are not being offered to you? Your employees likely share your sentiments.
This is why open dialogue is key to a meaningful and productive culture. Leaders should be attuned to their employees needs and desires.
Here is a simple way to start. For one quarter, have every manager ask each employee on their team the following questions, rotating each week:
- Do you have any problems with your current working conditions? Is there anything we could change tomorrow that would address these problems?
- Do you have work-life harmony here? If not, how can we help bridge the gap?
- What would you like the leadership to know that they currently don’t know?
- What is the best part of working here?
- Do you feel that you are able to flex and grow your strengths as much as you’d like? How could we help you grow more?
- Are there any areas of your role in which you struggle continually to the point of frustration? How could we provide tools to reduce this frustration?
- How would you sum up the culture here at [COMPANY]?
- Is this a place you could recommend your friends to work at? If not, why? (instill confidence that this question will not reflect negatively on them)
Understanding your employees’ perspective and how they feel is enough to set your culture apart from most. Taking action is a superpower.
Help them grow
People are not performing at their peak potential if they’re not growing. You must be the catalyst for your employee’s growth. Many companies attempt this through passive access to continuing education resources like online courses, but that's not enough.
Providing access to resources is part of supporting a growth culture, but the harder challenge is catalyzing that growth. You must create a culture designed to challenge oneself. Here are a few ways to do it:
- Internal hackathons: If you have a team that builds or designs anything, host a 2-day hackathon with participants encouraged to build or design anything tangentially related to the company they find exciting. Facebook's like button and timeline were both created during internal hackathons.
- Content creation: By encouraging employees to share their knowledge or what they've learned, many companies have built substantial followings that dive deeper into company technology or process. For example, Basecamp posts guides on what they’ve learned as a bootstrapped startup and now have thousands following along.
- 20% Time: While this method can be extremely valuable, it should not be tested without significant research and process-planning. Many companies have adopted this method of allowing employees a percentage of time to work on projects they are passionate about. Google is the most famous example with GMail, Google News, and AdSense all starting as 20% projects. If you choose to implement this approach, it is key that company time is dedicated to the project, with no expectation of it being done on personal time.
- Donating Hours: Many companies allow employees to dedicate business hours to a non-profit of the company’s choice as a way to give back. While potentially meaningful, consider offering employees the chance to make a more significant impact with a non-profit they care about. Encourage them to donate enough time to actually complete a project – more than a one-day venture. The millennial’s desire to give back can be an asset to your company if you give them the space to meaningfully impact organizations they care about.
- Mentorship: If your company does not have one, consider starting an internal mentorship program. Your entry-level employees will have the opportunity to learn more about the company, culture, and build skills. The mentors will gain skills in leadership, communication, and may even be able to get fresh ideas from new employees. The management consulting industry famously does this well, connecting young analysts and associates to managers and principals. Millennials are mentor seeking. They have a desire to grow, so this can be an opportunity to build relationships and create succession in your organization.
A mission-driven culture will be a defining asset. Spend time fostering collaboration. Invest in growth mindsets. Research indicates this is the most important factor for millennials considering a new position. Have concrete programs and policies in place to encourage growth and foster fulfillment. This is how you will attract and retain talent.
With the wealth of job opportunities available today, many employers struggle to positively differentiate. Some thrive, however, in ways the competition is unable to compete with. Companies that ranked in the top quartile of engagement had 22% higher profitability than the bottom quartile. It's your turn to create a differentiated culture. That culture will be one of your greatest assets.