Posted on: 29 May 2015

By 2025, 75% of the global workforce will be millennials (those born post 2000, aged about 18-36)1. In case you hadn't noticed, that’s just ten years away. By which time your small business will be ruling the world.

Millennials are very different to the workforce of old. They have very different priorities when it comes to job satisfaction and engagement.

So if you want to build your empire for tomorrow, you’ll be best prepared by cracking the millennial workforce nut today.

Mark de Stadler is trainer and senior engagement specialist at Dale Carnegie Training. His insight into what keeps millennials interested at work gives small business owners a real chance of achieving their dreams in the future.

The economics of millennial workforce engagement

Before we get onto that, let’s just put the retention of your workforce into context.

It’s a fact that keeping your workforce engaged goes hand in hand with business success. Because not only does engagement drive productivity up but it keeps recruitment costs down too.

Your current and future younger workforce has a significant part to play in this. Research by Dale Carnegie suggests that the turnover of young people in jobs may rise to 65%. With recruiting costs sitting at about 1.5 times annual salary, that can be a heavy burden for your small business to bear2.

Establishing what is important to millennials in their job and how to motivate them will help keep them, develop them and grow them and your business for the next ten years and far beyond.

The relationship with you, the business owner

“The most powerful way to engage a millennial in your business is for them to have a relationship with its owner,” says Mark. “It makes them feel important and it keeps them connected to the business.”

Job security for a millennial comes in the form of feeling involved in decisions. Without access to and conversations with the owner and leader of the business, they will quickly feel undervalued as well as unable to learn from their ultimate role model, you the business owner.

“People support a world they help create,” says Mark. “Giving them a voice, even if their idea isn’t used, commits them to the success of the business.”

Servant leadership

According to Mark, millennials don’t like being told what to do. “The key to leading millennials is not to lead from the front, but to direct from the back,” he says. “Servant leadership involves more coaching, less instructing and a focus on the employee’s needs first, rather than those of the business.”

Servant leadership manifests itself in having an interest in, and caring about, the personal life of your millennial employee. It involves an appreciation of how work fits into their life, rather than the other way around.

Talent mapping

Millennials are a fickle bunch, so businesses have to work hard to keep them. One of the ways that Mark recommends SMEs achieve this is by giving their young employee a clear vision of what their career journey in the organisation will be over the next few years.

“A talent map shows the individual the role that you expect them to be playing in three years time,” he says. “It shows what part the business can play in their personal career journey, rather than how they fit into the business’s ambitions.”

Giving your employees a feeling of control over their career, at the same time as describing what progress and success for them personally will look like, keeps them interested. “As millennials like to feel significant, ” continues Mark, “show them how they will contribute to the business’s success in the long term.”

Access to help

In 2014, Dale Carnegie Training conducted a study on what motivates millennials. They found that they highly value access to help when it’s needed.

“Millennials need a lot of communication,” explains Mark, “so when they’re part of a team they feel the need to be involved in a lot of conversations." This may well come from their need to constantly communicate via social media. Whatever the cause, regular appraisals are key to providing that forum for requesting help.

“Monthly appraisals, not yearly ones, are what millennials need,” says Mark. “You can’t just put them on a career path and expect them to succeed. They need to feel able to seek help at every step.”

Development plans

Career development, whether it be management training, technical qualifications or work shadowing, are a cherished aspect of any ambitious person’s job role. But Dale Carnegie Training’s study of millennials found that they specifically value the ability to learn and develop beyond their current job.

Mark believes that this is because millennials demand more when it comes to feeling invested in. “A millennial workforce regularly needs to hear about their development plan,” he says. “They want to know how the company is investing in their future and what learning they are going to receive at work.”

Fostering entrepreneurialism

The bottom line is that millennials have access to so much information that they have confidence in their ability to do almost anything. You could say that they are more entrepreneurial than any generation that has come before them.

For those business owners who themselves understand and appreciate that entrepreneurial streak, it is definitely worth embracing it and nurturing it in their workforce for the overall good of the business.

[1] https://www2.deloitte.com/content/dam/Deloitte/global/Documents/About-Deloitte/gx-dttl-2014-millennial-survey-report.pdf

[2] http://www.dalecarnegie.co.uk/

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