If You Don't Care About Professional Development, Millennials Won't Care About You
Are you ready for a rude awakening? A quarter of Millennials are looking to leave their jobs within the next 12 months, and that number jumps to 44% when the time frame increases to two years.
No, not because they’re noncommittal job hoppers who always have one eye peeled for greener pastures. And, definitely not because they spotted a better ping-pong table elsewhere.
So, what’s the reason behind so many Millennials feeling eager to jump ship from their current gigs? They don’t feel like their employers are truly investing in them. In fact, as the Deloitte 2016 Millennial Survey showed, 63% of Millennials feel their leadership skills aren’t being developed, and only 28% feel that their current organizations are making use of the skills they have to offer.
Like most employees, Millennials want to feel as if their companies and their managers are genuinely interested and actively engaged in their growth and professional development. So, now that we’ve got that out of the way, you’re left with one big question: How can you adequately demonstrate that you’re invested in your employees? What things can you do—both big and small—to show that you care about their growth?
Here are five strategies you can implement to make professional growth a key component of your culture—and show all employees you’re investing in them for the long haul.
1. Be Transparent About Growth
If you’re aiming to encourage your Millennial employees to stick around (and, I can only assume you are), then they shouldn’t be left wondering what happens next in their careers.
What does that mean for you? Well, you need to talk meaningfully and candidly about how exactly advancement works within your organization. For each role, what are the next steps up, and what are the requirements to get there? What training programs are available to employees who seek advancement, and what are they expected to learn on their own? Of course, there will always be some uncertainty, but your employees should have a fairly clear understanding of what’s expected of them in order to get to the next step in their careers.
This also means being as specific as possible about your management style. What do leaders in your company do to get the best out of each and every employee? Have you ditched traditional performance reviews? Do you emphasize on-the-job training or continuing education? Do you pride yourself on not micromanaging your employees?
Identify and promote those key things that show that your company’s leadership is truly invested in every employee’s success, and you’re that much more likely to have a team of empowered and loyal people behind you.
2. Identify Stepping Stones
Of course, showing Millennials that you’re invested in their professional growth doesn’t mean that you need to be tossing endless promotions their way—that’s not necessarily realistic or doable for any company.
However, there are alternatives you can implement to give employees additional responsibilities and show that they’re taking steps forward, without needing to go through the formal promotion process each and every time.
One way to accomplish this is by identifying stepping stones—such as moving to a “team lead” or a project manager role—in between promotions and formal title changes. These smaller shifts make it clear that an employee is still moving up, even if it’s not time for an official promotion quite yet.
Some clients of Mercer, a global consulting firm, have taken this concept one step further by actually breaking what used to be one large career jump into smaller steps along the way. So, instead of leaping from Job A to Job B, employees now progress from Job A to Job A1, and so on.
Additionally, providing chances for employees to take on higher-profile projects or offering co-leadership opportunities—where a younger staff member is matched with a more experienced executive to spearhead a project—are other effective ways to offer more responsibility, promote learning, and demonstrate trust before it’s time for a true promotion.
Steps like these are helpful for reinforcing transparency about career paths, as well as allowing employees to feel as if they’re making true forward progress—and aren’t just stuck in neutral.
3. Show You Understand Them
Giving employees the freedom to own projects that are important to them is not only a good way to make them feel understood, but also valued and appropriately utilized.
Of course, you already know that Millennials are digital natives—so, allowing them to lead the charge on a social media initiative or implementing a new technology is a natural fit. However, the key here is to understand your employees’ unique interests and talents, and then give them projects that support those.
For example, perhaps one of your team members is interested in social good and sustainability. Allowing him to spend a certain amount of his time on a corporate social responsibility campaign or even organize an office volunteer committee will go a long way in making him feel like a trusted and respected member of the team. Not to mention, it’ll be just as good for your company.
Remember, understanding and trusting your employees is crucial, regardless of their age. But, it’s especially important for Millennials who are always eager to know how their work is contributing to the bigger picture.
4. Tout Non-Traditional Compensation
Yes, money talks. But, it’s not just the number that’s printed on the paychecks that carries weight with your Millennial employees.
In fact, a 2015 study by EdAssist found that 60% of Millennials would choose a job with a strong potential for professional development over a high paying job with regular pay increases.
This is why it’s important that you promote your benefits and programs in this area, including tuition reimbursement, stipends to attend conferences and seminars, and any other growth benefits you offer. Programs like this reinforce the point that you’re not just sending employees home with a bi-weekly paycheck—you’re quite literally investing in their futures. And, to Millennials? Well, that’s priceless.
If you don’t offer programs like this just yet, don’t fall into the trap of thinking that there’s nothing else you can do. There are lower-cost options you can implement, such as creating a rotational program to give employees experience in other departments or starting your own in-office educational program, where you invite in a new speaker every month. Anything you can do to invest in your employees’ growth will carry a lot of weight.
5. Encourage Continuous Learning
Of course, you want your employees to be the best they can be in the office. But, if you want to show you’re truly invested in their professional growth and development, then you need to encourage opportunities to learn and improve—outside the office.
Promote different classes, conferences, and workshops that they might be interested in attending to sharpen their skills in their respective fields. Share books and articles that they’d find interesting and informative. Start monthly lunch and learns where employees can present something of interest to them. Invite team members to report back on things they’ve learned at conferences. Or, try something completely new and challenging as a team.
Encouraging continuous learning shows your employees that you aren’t trying to limit them or shield them from opportunities outside your organization for fear that they’ll find something better. In contrast, you’re eager to support them in becoming the best, most informed versions of themselves they can be.
Millennials don’t want to feel like just another cog in the wheel at your company—they want to feel challenged, encouraged, and supported both inside and outside of the office.
So, what’s the best way to do that? By implementing these strategies to show your employees that you’re truly invested in their professional growth. Trust us, feeling as if they have plenty of opportunity to evolve their careers with your company will inspire your people to stick around for the long haul.
Photo of people working together courtesy of PeopleImages.com/Getty Images.
Kat is a Midwest-based freelance writer, covering topics related to careers, self-development, and the freelance life. In addition to writing for The Muse, she's also the Career Editor for The Everygirl, a columnist for Inc., and a contributor all over the web. When she manages to escape from behind her computer screen, she's usually babying her rescued terrier mutt or continuing her search for the perfect taco. Say hi on Twitter @kat_boogaard or check out her website.More from this Author