December 4, 2015

Millennials Work Ethic: How to Successfully Retain Millennials


With Baby Boomers stepping out of the way and retiring, the generation commonly referred to as “Millennials” is quickly and surely taking over the workforce. But who are Millennials and what does “Millennials work ethic” mean?

Millennials present a bit of a shock to many employers because they are a completely different breed of employee. While past generations might have been more interested in stability and benefits, these younger generations of workers have different professional priorities.

These different priorities often lead to younger workers changing jobs a lot more readily. Not surprisingly, many employers who don’t understand the mindset of millennials can often misinterpret their intentions and brand them as spoiled and disloyal employees. But that is not the case at all.

Millennials are simply a different type of employee than baby boomers were, and getting them on board and excited about staying with your company is possible once you take the time to understand them.

What We Know About Millennials Work Ethic

Millennials are often referred to as Generation Yers. Baby Boomers are in between the ages of 50 and 70 now and are ready to leave the workforce, while Generation Xers are in their 30s and 40s and their corporate culture straddles the line somewhere in the between Baby Boomers and Millennials.

Millennials, who are in the 18-30 age group for the most part, are a new breed that many older employers have not had a chance to fully understand just yet. If you’re an employer that still has a hard time understanding Millennials, here’s a quick rundown of what you need to know about them in order to better manage them.

They Job-Hop

We know that Millennials are currently the toughest employees to retain. Statistics show that many Millennials feel that two years with one company is more than enough before they start looking for other opportunities.

Not only are Millennials hard to retain, but there’s also a very good chance that when they leave you, they are going to be heading to a competitor that operates within the same vertical as your company does.

And that’s not the only way in which losing a Millennial is pricey. It can cost you thousands of dollars to replace one. Think about how much time and effort it takes to be constantly looking for new employees and bringing them up to speed before they can actually start contributing.

They Are the Future

There’s no denying it. By 2030, Millennials are going to make up 75% of the workforce, according to data released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

That’s why it’s so vital to adapt to the way they work and learn how to manage them. It’s only a matter of time before you won’t have a choice but to rely on them.

They Know What They Want

A recent survey conducted by Payscale, tells us a lot about Millennials – who they are and what they want out of their jobs.

Unlike past generations, Millennials have a very firm understanding of what they want. More than past generations, Millennials find work-life balance very important. While older generations were more willing to sacrifice their personal lives for job security, Millennials are not.

Not only that, but Millennials want a job that offers opportunities for advancement. If they do not find that within a year, they are likely to move on and search elsewhere.

The fact that they are so aware of what they want out of employment is what makes it even more important for potential employees to understand their professional desires and needs if they wish to retain them.

How to Keep Them With Your Company

By now, you’ve probably realized that it’s in every employer’s best interest to strive to retain Millennials instead of being nonchalant about letting them go and struggling to replace them at alarmingly fast rates.

Here’s what Millennials look for when searching for a company that they can see themselves working and growing in for an extended period of time.

Create a Familial Environment

Gen Y has a completely different relationship with upper management than Baby Boomers do. While older generations don’t really look to have a relationship with their bosses, Millennials do.

Many younger workers want their bosses to be something like “work family members” to them. For example, while Baby Boomers might only be concerned about making sure that their bosses don’t hate them and pay them regularly, Millennials look for more. In fact, more than 70% of younger workers want a manager who is friendly and affable in comparison to only about 60% of Baby Boomers who care about whether their boss will be a nice guy or gal.

That’s why company culture is so important to Millennials. They want what they do to make a difference. If your company hosts volunteering or mentorship programs, gives back to the community and engages employees with team-building activities, you have a better chance of landing and keeping Gen Y employees.

Offer Advancement Opportunities

Millennials want to lead. They want an opportunity to learn new things and to advance their roles within an organization. That’s why you need to show your younger workers that there really are opportunities for upward mobility within your company.

If these employees see that all of your leaders are being brought in externally and no one is being promoted from within the team, they will be out the door quickly. Of course, promoting internally is a win for you as well, because you are not only sure of that person’s skills and abilities already, but you are also saving money. Bringing someone into the company costs twice as much as promoting from within.

It’s also important to keep them motivated and encourage them to learn new skills and take on new projects and responsibilities regularly. Gen Yers love professional challenges and gladly accept them.

Let Them Collaborate

The fact that Millennials love to collaborate and work in groups is often misinterpreted. This does not mean that they cannot make decisions on their own, it means that they value the input of others.

Most Millennials believe that the best way to make a good business decision is to “crowdsource” and get input from a diverse group of team members. This is the complete opposite of Baby Boomers, who would rather make decisions on their own instead of having to try and reach a consensus with other people at work.

So if you see your young workers huddling together and socializing instead of sitting in their cubicles and working alone, don’t try and stop it. In fact, you should be encouraging them to work together. Not only because they like to work that way, but because you’ll probably see better results from this method as well.

But even when they are working in groups, don’t forget to treat each of them as an individual with aspirations, skills, and opinions of their own.

Provide Constant Feedback

Millennials have a much stronger need for feedback than older workers. A lot of this mindset comes from growing open with social media and the instant gratification that comes with that.

Younger workers want you to tell them how they are doing every chance you get. Another reason behind this desire for constant feedback is the fact that they believe that a steady stream of feedback, be it negative or positive, will help them grow and learn at a faster rate.

Millennials also have a stronger need for affirmation. This also ties back in with the idea that Gen Y looks at their workplace like a family. They seek guidance and appreciation from their bosses just like they would from their parents.

So if you’re only doing employee reviews once or twice a year, that’s not going to cut it when managing Millennials. You need to increase the frequency of feedback significantly to assuage them. It doesn’t have to come in the shape of formal employee reports or reviews either. Take the time to informally sit down with your Millennials regularly to let them know what they are doing well and where they still have room for improvement.

Offer Them Flexibility

Millennials have grown up with technology that gives people the option to work from anywhere. Most workers from older generations don’t feel comfortable working from anywhere but the office because that’s all they have ever known. But Millennials absolutely love having the ability to work from a variety of locations, and they thrive when these options are afforded to them.

Companies that have managed to embrace this sort of culture have an easier time retaining Millennials. It’s not just about the differences in workers from generation to generation, the businesses change as well.

Startup companies are where you are going to find a large percentage of Millennials, and anyone who works for or runs a startup knows that schedules in these type of companies are completely irregular. Sometimes employees need to work around the clock to meet deadlines – a task that becomes much easier to follow through with when you aren’t chained to the desk at your office.

Just about every survey related to remote work, this one included, shows that employees who are given the option to work remotely, at least part-time, are more engaged and more productive.


When hiring and working with Millennials, the most important thing to do is let go of any preconceived notions that you may have about them. Gen Yers are not difficult to manage, they simply require you to change your methods slightly in order to sync with their approach to the workplace.

The truth is that Millennials can be just as loyal, dedicated, productive and motivated as any generation of workers.

If you are having problems retaining Millennials, be proactive about working to change that. Thoroughly interview the employees that are leaving and find out why they wanted to leave. And if you have Millennials that have been with you for over two years, talk to them too and find out what’s keeping them with you.

Facilitating this type of open communication and culture of transparency is, in fact, where managing millennials work ethics better starts.