I just got an email from a government agency manager . His agency recruited three new college graduates (Millennials) last year and they started in July 2011. Two had moved on by December and the third is visibly wavering. The manager is livid. All three promised that they wanted careers in his agency and would be there forever. (The fact that he believed such a fairy tale is the triumph of desperation over common sense.) His question: How do you keep Millennials long enough for them to make a reasonable decision on whether they like the job or are just passing through? Here are some ideas that have worked for organizations from not-for-profits to corporate America.
Tips for Managing Millennials in the Workplace
1. Under promise and over deliver. In every interview with a Millennial answer the unasked question: “What is the worst day you’ve had in this job?” “What are the intractable problems?” It’s un-Boomer in the extreme to paint a dark picture of the job. Do it. The number one reason Twentysomethings leave a job is, “No one told me how bad things would get!”
2.. Assume you have six months to win an employee. Give up the assumption that Twentysomethings will make “reasoned” decisions and realize that they are always job hunting. Do not assume that because someone signed an offer letter that he/she is committed to working for the organization. It’s a day-by-day decision. Literally. In focus groups, Twentysomethings tell me that each morning they ask the same question, “Is this job what I want to do now?” Don’t spend the first six months in endless training sessions. Give the newbie at least one opportunity a week to make a difference.
3. Don’t put a lone Twentysomething in a work group of all Boomers. The Boomers can finish each others’ sentences. The newbie has no idea what they are talking about because he/she lacks context. We think four or five is the minimum number of Twentysomethings in a group for them to survive.
4. Ask early and often what isn’t working. Flight, not complaint, is the preferred strategy for Twentysomethings. Boomers complain but do not leave. Adjust your thinking to pick up the slightest expression of discontent. You won’t get a second chance.
5. Forced participation drives people out. Don’t expect newbies to offer ideas until they’ve “thawed” which usually takes a year. Until they are sure they’ve mastered the job and met expectations they have nothing to say.
Finally, please stop thinking of job security as a desirable perk for the young. If your preferred role models build on-line businesses and sell them, what’s the value of job security?
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