How to Lose a Millennial in 10 Ways
This article is adapted from a 2019 AHP Webinar Series event presented by Christy Holtby, CFRE, Vice President of Strategic Partnerships, University Hospital Foundation, and Dominic Schamuhn, Manager of Major Giving, United Way of Alberta Capital Region.
Millennials are one of the largest demographics in today's society. Born between 1980 and 1995, their emergence is providing an opportunity — and a necessity — for organizations to develop new ways to interact with their employees.
By 2020, millennials will form 50% of the global workforce. It’s in an employer’s best interest to try to keep these employees around because the cost of millennial staff turnover is close to an annual $30.5 billion in the U.S. alone.
With the stakes that high, it’s important to be wary of all the ways you can lose a millennial in your organization.
1. Be militant about how to do things.
It’s important to have a clear end goal, but be flexible in the ways you can reach that goal. Avoid the statement, “We’ve always done it this way.” If a younger employee is in need of context, pair them with someone who has extensive institutional knowledge and can provide that history. Millennials need that context to help them shape their ideas. But it’s also important to be open to their ideas. Are you saying something is incorrect when it’s just your preference to do it a certain way?
2. Don’t embrace change.
Always be open to doing better. Millennials are going to want to implement change. If you shut down any and all changes without due diligence, you’ll lose them. Try to have a growth mindset and look for all the ways you can improve. If you absolutely can’t implement one of their ideas, explain why. But make sure you’re listening to their suggestions for how you can do things bigger, better or differently.
3. Don’t let them be part of the solution.
Don’t exclude millennials from problem-solving. They want to be recognized for their contributions to the team. Bring your staff into meetings with donors and stakeholders when it makes sense to do so. They will appreciate the learning opportunity. Engage your staff in the workplace and tell them they belong. Make sure they know you value their insight and you value them as people.
4. Treat them like tokens.
Don’t treat your millennial employees like they’re a quota you need to fill. You need a clear expectation of what you hope to gain from their expertise before they even walk through the door. Millennials want to know their work matters, so ask for what you want to know from their perspective. Demonstrate how the smallest actions fit into the vision of the organization.
One way to show your millennial employees they’re valued is to implement a stay interview – similar to an exit interview. This is not a performance review, nor is it tied to compensation. Allow them a place to air the frustrations they may have before those frustrations make them want to leave your organization. This generation will likely be more vocal in raising their issues. Listen and engage in the discussion, then act appropriately.
5. Watch the clock.
Millennials are active citizens, and they want to do things outside of work. Allow your staff the flexibility to engage in outside activities, and they’ll be loyal. Many employees of this generation look for flexible schedule options in an organization’s benefits package.
6. Tell them their career path.
Don’t tell your millennial employees what their career path will look like, but allow them opportunities to grow with their skills. Adopt a coaching mindset rather than a mentorship one. Coaching asks more questions about what they want to do, rather than only giving them the model and path for what you did.
7. Stifle their ambition.
Recognize your employees’ ambition rather than discouraging it. Their goals might not be moving up a particular career path, but if you help them get to where they want to go, they will remember the impact you had on their life forever. Encourage their ambition and they will be some of your best and most motivated employees.
8. Be a suit.
Don’t forget to be human in your leadership. Millennials want an authentic human being as a boss, and they want to work for genuine people. In not being a suit, you’re more likely to be open to learning and improving. This will enable you to grow as a leader and help your staff to grow together.
9. Have a dress code.
If you hire a professional, they will dress professionally. Be clear about attire expectation for certain events, but trust your staff to make their own decisions about what they wear on a daily basis. If there’s an issue, address it directly. If you set the right work environment and culture, you’ll attract the right people.
10. Don’t let them fly.
Your employees will eventually leave your organization – that’s inevitable. Don’t be angry when they do. If you avoid burning bridges with your former employees, you leave the door open for future collaboration. Remember: how you treat former employees will be seen by your current employees. Make sure you’re being authentic and honest. If you’re badmouthing former employees, your remaining employees may wonder what you’re saying about them (especially if they are maintaining a friendship with those former employees). Don’t clip your employees’ wings, and when they do leave, know that you’ve launched a brand ambassador for your organization.
To learn more about how to interact with millennials in your organization, watch the full webinar.