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How To Buy The Loyalty Of Your Millennial Employees

More and more, companies across the nation are trying to wrestle with this very issue--how do we retain our young talent? Job-hopping has become an accepted norm (and is often encouraged) which leaves organizations in a difficult spot to be able to plan for the future. But there are simple ways to buy the loyalty of the rising generation, and I’ll tell you, even the way you see the title of this article tells us a lot about how you view the potential solution.

I’ve got two stories for you here, a bit of a compare and contrast. I’ve changed the names to protect the innocent, of course, but these stories are not only true, but they’re a perfect microcosm of what’s happening in companies, large and small, all across the world. Let’s dive in.

There’ a young guy, we’ll call him Jackson. Early 30s. Hasn’t been a huge job hopper, was all about settling into a place where he could work, start a family and build a future. But he is a Millennial, so there is that itch, that internal clock that makes him want to move every few years.

A recent Gallup report on the millennial generation reveals that 21% of millennials say they’ve changed jobs within the past year, which is more than 3 times the number of non-millennials who report the same. Gallup estimates that millennial turnover costs the U.S. economy $30.5 BILLION annually. So, good topic here.

Back to Jackson. Here he is, working in IT for a Healthcare company. And as we were chatting, he was mentioning that his company has a way of retaining millennials, and I asked him to elaborate. His company offers a pension that an employee can be FULLY VESTED in after 3 years. Yes, 3 years. Work for at least 3 years, and then you’ll be getting paid the rest of your life from this company, even if you leave. Not a 401k matching program, not tuition reimbursement. Pension.

Great perk, yes? I’ve got to tell you, he’s sold out to this company. Well…for now. He has absolutely no intention of leaving in the next 3 years. 6-8% of your salary for life, after 3 years? How many calls from recruiters do you think he takes? How many hours per week do you think he fantasizes about leaving his current role? Very few...for now.

You see, he’s fully committed for the next three years, but he didn’t say what he’d like to do after that. You’d think with such a sweet perk, they would have bought his loyalty much more than, “We’ll see what happens.” Certainly that’s what the company is hoping for at least. But because they are trying to buy loyalty with money, Jackson is basically playing like a pro athlete under contract. Like an NFL player in his head, he is waiting for free-agency to hit when his contract is up. If he was staying there for the money, guess how this will play out when there’s more money on the table somewhere else.

Now, this company is trying to do the right thing. They’re trying to buy the loyalty of their millennial employees, and they’re doing something about it. But few companies have pockets deep enough to get into a bidding war for every solid young talent they’d like to hire. Is there a way to buy loyalty of millennial employees without spending buckets of cash?

A young millennial named Pixley was hired as a corporate event planner for a big company. A billion-dollar company. And as is the case in many billion-dollar companies, there was some restructuring that took place and her position was reallocated to some of the regional offices, instead of having one central event planner. So here’s qualified Pixley, by no fault of her own, suddenly out of a job. It happens, when you’re running with a large company. Well, the COO, knowing that her position was going to be redistributed to the regional offices, remembered her from an event she worked on, and liked her. So he reached out and said “I know what this change is going to do to your job, but we’re a big fan of you. I want to call around and see if there is a regional office where we can find a way to keep you.” So he sent a handful of emails out. “Some of you have met her, some haven’t. But let’s find a way to keep her in the company.”

Regional offices offered suggestions, and people got creative. One of the offices created a new role for her. It wasn’t a PERFECT fit, but the point was made: they cared about her as a human being. They bought her loyalty, not with money, but with seeing her as a valuable asset AND finding a way to prove it with action. Within a couple of years, things got reshuffled again, as they do. And she actually got her old position back, but her job is even bigger than before.

Pixley has grown with this company now for 10 years and has no intention of leaving.

Her company didn’t spend a dime to buy that loyalty. What did it take? Thinking about their employees has human beings, one phone call, and a few emails.

They found a way to care about HER more than the POSITION.

The COO took the time to think about her, think about what the restructuring does for the company, sure…but what does it mean for the PEOPLE? Are there some people that we need to keep? He thought 3-dimensionally about what was happening, and saw his employees not as positions, but as people. Thereby buying her loyalty for the next decade.

He didn’t have to write pension checks for the rest of her life. Jackson? He’s a free agent after this contract and could be lining things up for his departure.

There IS a way to buy the loyalty of millennials, and it’s not just with the almighty dollar.

That same Gallup report found that HALF of millennials strongly agree that they plan to be working at their company one year from now. HALF! This is clearly a battle that’s worth winning in your company. So what to do?

Bottom line: you need to let them know that you care. That you see them as a person, not just an employee. Here’s 3 practical tips on how to do that!

1) LET THEM KNOW YOU SEE THEM. Make an effort to notice them and their contribution to your organization. Go out of your way to pat them on the back and be SPECIFIC on your feedback. The higher up you are in an organization, the farther it goes. Personally, I have a habit of reaching out to a handful of people every day, be it a message, email or text, to let them know that I appreciate them. That I see how much they’re adding to the environment, to the organization as a whole.

2) INVEST IN THEIR PERSONAL DEVELOPMENT. Any company can send their people to a professional seminar and invest a few thousand dollars into career development, but millennial employees simply see this as a way for you to turn them into a better ROI for the company. It defeats the purpose of showing them that you view them as MORE than that. Create learning opportunities for them to grow as an INDIVIDUAL. Try passing out copies of a great book for everyone in your group, sharing some great videos, or tie them into a weekly learning lesson.

3) GET THEIR FAMILIES INVOLVED. Any parent knows how quickly you bond with another parent by simply showing them a picture of your kids. An instant bond occurs when talking about family, versus projects and deadlines. Don’t underestimate the opportunities that exist to bring your kids (or your dog) to work. Volunteer days, family-friendly corporate events, or sending Mother’s Day cards to your employees moms are another great way to get families involved.

Let your imagination take you from there! More and more companies are demystifying the subject of retaining their young talent. You can buy the loyalty of your millennial employees without spending a dime.


Millennial Strong is on a mission to unlock the greatness of the Millennial Generation by creating resources and programs for personal development and growth. Founders David Anderson and Mark Nathan are co-authors of The Delusion of Passion: Why Millennials Struggle to Find Success.

#millennials #leadership #retainemployees #createloyalty #retention

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