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Workplace Trends • Gradifi

Millennials Are Aging Up: An Employer’s Guide to Helping With Upward Mobility

By Dawn Papandrea | 4-min read

Millennials, at one time the youngest members of the workforce, are getting older. Those born at the beginning of this generational range are now in their mid-30s.

As such, it’s in the best interest of employers to really understand and support the needs and goals of this group so that they will choose to stay and contribute to the company in their peak career years. After all, you’ve invested in their talents thus far, so why let them go off to your competitors when they’re ready to move into managerial roles and start making strategic decisions?

Employee retention is good for business and millennials—especially as they add a few years of experience onto their resumes—have a lot of value to offer. In fact, even though there’s a misconception that they’re job hoppers, they want nothing more than to find the right employer with whom they can learn and advance.

“When I was choosing a company, I was thinking long term,” says Tiara Crespino, a 2014 graduate who now works as a campus recruiting associate. “I asked about mobility and the room for growth in the company.”

Consider this: a study found that 89% of millennials would be willing to stay with the same company for more than a decade if there were opportunities for upward career mobility and a regular increase in compensation. But if they don’t feel like their needs are being met, they have no problem with looking elsewhere.

The bottom line: If you want to retain and nurture your top millennial talent, you need to understand their values, and provide them with upward mobility. Here’s how to do just that.

1. Give Millennials the Tools to Level Up

It’s important to make clear the ways in which your company helps its employees thrive.

  • Training opportunities: From on-site training and support to a mentorship program, let your young professionals know that these benefits are available to them.
  • A clear path to advancement: Mapping out a potential career trajectory early on can give staffers something to strive for. Even better is if you can point to long-time current employees who have worked their way up as examples of success.

Crespino has been impressed with her company being open to her exploring other teams within the company. “I’m on the human capital team now but there is a different team that I’m interested in long-term and I’ve made that clear. I have career coaches and they’re helping me learn the appropriate skills to move onto that team in the long run,” she says.

2. Keep Them Engaged

Study after study finds that engagement has a direct correlation to employee retention and productivity. In fact, it’s estimated that disengaged employees cost organizations between $450 and $550 billion annually, according to The Engagement Institute. Here’s how to keep your staffers engaged, and more likely to stay with your company.

  • Communication and feedback: Millennials crave guidance, direction, and frequent check-ins from their supervisors and managers. A yearly review is not enough. Schedule time to meet one on one to discuss progress and goals. Many companies have revamped their performance review process, including Adobe, which switched from yearly reviews to developing regular conversations between managers and employees to boost engagement.
  • Fair compensation and benefits: Even if salary increases or bonuses aren’t possible, you must find ways to show that you’re willing to invest in them. This could be anything from a health and wellness benefits to tuition reimbursement to retirement planning assistance. 

The best benefit of all, however, might be helping them pay back their students loans. In fact, 85 percent would accept one job offer over another if it included student loan payment assistance, according to the Millennial Benefit Preferences Study sponsored by HR.com, Purdue University, and Recruiter.com. 

Crespino was drawn to her employer’s unique benefits package, especially as a first-generation college student graduating with student loan debt. “I wish I had more help, in the beginning, breaking down what the cost of college would be. I went to a large university where one on one contact with the financial aid office wasn’t always easy,” she says.

That’s why when she learned that the company assisted its employees with student loans along with other benefits, it was a big draw. “A big deciding factor was the employee benefits, but one that stuck out was the student loan paydown program. I wanted to pay off my loans faster,” she says. With support from her employer, and by continuing to make her regular payments, she’s now on track to pay off the loans a year or two early.

3. Appreciate the Skills they Bring to the Table

Millennials sometimes don’t get credit for their many talents and skills, and in some cases, feel misunderstood. Crespino says that her generation has a lot to offer to companies that are willing to hear them out. “We care a lot about giving back and making an impact,” she says.

In addition, growing up in the digital age means millennials are inherently able to adapt to rapidly changing technology, an important attribute in today’s world. However, it also means that companies may have to accept that younger generations have different work and communications styles and preferences than older ones.

By understanding the lifestyle of your workforce, and finding ways to develop their skills, you can recruit and retain top talent for years to come. Some ideas include understanding their desire for work/life balance by offering flex time and/or remote work options and getting them involved in teams comprised of all generations that directly contribute to the growth of the company, and society as a whole.

All in all, it’s in the best interest of companies to do what they can to keep employees happy rather than lose them to a competitor. Crespino is pleased that she found a company that is helping her reach her long-term goals and is looking forward to rising in the ranks. 

What are you doing to encourage your millennial employees to stay?

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