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Tips for Building Gen Y Retention

By Melissa J. Anderson

In a recent FastCompany article, Luxury Market Branding CEO Lauren Mallian Bias discussed the core of concerns around Gen Y employment:

“In our current economic climate–with volatility and unease continuing to define many work environments–the distinction and loyalty of the team is of critical importance. More than ever, we need talented colleagues to stick it out with us and elevate our organizations. However, we continue to hear about Gen Y’s feeling of entitlement and immense turnover. What is really happening, and how can we utilize the tools that a number of budding startups are creating to solve some of these issues?”

Bias says that Gen Y has a bent toward mobility and a drive to question “why.” By tapping into these traits, rather than working to tamp them down, employers can work to retain Gen Y talent even when they inclined toward job independence. Here’s how.

A New Kind of Loyalty

Gen Y is often characterized as a generation of job-hoppers content to skip around between companies without staying put or becoming entrenched in any one workplace. In the past, companies could count on workers staying loyal to a brand name, writes Dan Schwabel, Personal Branding Expert at Millennial Branding in American Express Open Access Forum. But those days are over.

While Millennial employees aren’t likely to feel particular loyalty toward a specific company, they are loyal to coworkers and managers. He advises managers to focus on building the immediate team culture, rather than impressing a heavy-handed expectation of long-term loyalty. He writes, “As a manager even of a small group, create a culture of teamwork, recognition and growth, and you will find your employees far more satisfied, and much less likely to jump ship.”

Bias suggests that Gen Y employees will be more loyal to an organization that puts a focus on professional development. She writes, “They want to master being effective professionals and they enjoy the development process. Arm them with responsibility and watch them thrive under the guise of your “big picture.” It may not be perfect, but they will undoubtedly provide fresh perspective and may even spark a new idea.”

By showing Gen Y employees they are trusted to lead, they’ll feel more valued by a company. Schwabel agrees – he said much of Gen Y flight can be attributed to the fact that they don’t see a clear path forward. “They leave because they feel like they have no other choice. So when onboarding Gen-Y new-hires, work with them to determine their career goals, and develop a pathway for them to reach those goals,” he writes, adding that managers should set clear goals and metrics for success.

Heightened Transparency

As a highly connected group accustomed to having their opinions heard, Gen Y  needs to feel like they are contributing something of value to their workplace. If they don’t feel useful, they won’t stick around long. Schwabel suggests making sure that Millennials are given the opportunity to contribute. He suggests, “Create an environment where they are comfortable with and encouraged to share their thoughts and opinions. Even if those opinions aren’t acted on, the sense that their contribution is valued will make them more productive for your company.”

Bias agrees. By being transparent and explaining how and why Gen Y employees can make a difference to a team or company, employers will ensure Millennial employees feel valuable. She writes, “They’re motivated by working toward the bigger goal, seeing the opportunity to take a bigger path, and developing the next steps. There’s no motivation for them otherwise. Gen Y values openness in communication and they are resilient.”

By creating an environment where big picture goals are discussed and Gen Y employees have an opportunity to contribute their voice and experience to a project, companies can improve their ability to attract and retain the leaders of the next generation.

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