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Attracting and Retaining Millennials in the Workplace is Key

2 October 2017 at 8:36 am
Wendy Williams
Understanding what motivates millennials in the workplace is essential for attracting and retaining top talent, says Purposeful founding director Mike Davis, who is set to run a masterclass on engaging this new generation of employees.

Wendy Williams | 2 October 2017 at 8:36 am


Attracting and Retaining Millennials in the Workplace is Key
2 October 2017 at 8:36 am

Understanding what motivates millennials in the workplace is essential for attracting and retaining top talent, says Purposeful founding director Mike Davis, who is set to run a masterclass on engaging this new generation of employees.

According to Davis, by 2025 millennials will comprise the majority of the senior workforce.

Yet many organisations are struggling to develop a workplace that engages this cohort, with workplaces facing an average of 16 per cent employee turnover per year, at a cost of around $40,000 to $80,000 per employee that leaves.

Davis told Pro Bono News attracting and retaining top talent was a point of strategic advantage for businesses that invested in this area, but he cautioned there was no “silver bullet”.

“The workplace has changed dramatically and given that millennials are going to be the vast majority of senior management and leaders in the next eight years, it is really important that we understand their motivations and reasons for doing things,” Davis said.

“Managers and frontline leaders need to have a new framework to help them get the best out of young people and millennials who are going to become leaders soon, if they don’t do that we are going to see more of what we’re seeing currently which is really high turnover rates each year in Australian workplaces…which costs organisations a lot of money every year.

“The reason for all of this is that organisations aren’t really tapping into the way that millennials think and what they want from the workplace, which is really a sense of higher purpose and meaning.”

According to Davis, millennials operate with a significantly different mindset, motivators, priorities and goals from other generations in the workforce.

Earlier this month, Purposeful premiered a short documentary that explored what millennials care about, what they do about it and how they design their lives.

The B Corp interviewed four millennials interning at Purposeful in a bid to “bust some of myths and stereotypes” commonly heard about millennials.

Those interviewed were primarily focused on helping others, creating social impact and making the world a better place, through their actions.

Davis said organisations needed to start telling “a compelling narrative about why they exist” and start thinking about the question as a strategic and management level exercise.

“Because we’ve seen lately that having a clear purpose that is aligned to values is a real driver of stakeholder value,” Davis said.

“I think the reason there is such high attrition and failure to attract the top talent is because these organisation have not evolved sufficiently to understand what motivates millennials.

“From our own summations at Purposeful and more generally, we see that they get meaning from a lot of different places in their lives but not enough from where they actually work, so if we can maybe help work to evolve so it imbues more meaning or it starts to engage with young people then I think you’ll see people are happier to do the longer hours, they’re happier to really give more of themselves to the organisation.”

Davis said while it was common for people, particularly millennials, to change jobs regularly, retention was still a point of concern.

“I think people do want regular change and we are seeing that people do like to move jobs every one to three years,” he said.

“I actually read a study… that said the more career changes you have before you’re 32, the more likely you are to go on to become a c-suite manager or executive level manager before you’re 40. So I used to be told that it was incredibly flakey to change jobs regularly but the new evidence is suggesting people who change jobs more often are actually constantly seeking to improve themselves and constantly seeking to be more successful which we should always be encouraging.

“As workplaces we can either just accept that people are going to leave and not invest in them or we can do everything we can to be a workplace that they want to be a part of going forward. I think too many organisations have fallen into the former camp and not known what to do, how to invest in places that are able to retain and draw in the top talent.”

He said it was possible to attract and retain top talent by creating an organisation that was mission driven, and had a strong commitment to growth and learning for all of its people, with an emphasis on overall well being, “rather than just your cave man metrics like your employee engagement”.

He said it went beyond attracting and retaining millennials.

“The things that we have identified as being quite prominent or important to millennials are actually some of the same things that we see in people who grew up in the heyday of the 60s, like my dad and a lot of people I know in their 60s now, grew up in the time of free love, revolution and a bit of rebellion, they’re all people who witnessed enormous upheaval and societal change and I think we’re at a precipice of that right now as well where we’ve got the rise of populism and different forces are actually pushing people more towards wanting to be involved in grassroots social movements and causes that support community development,” he said.

“It is interesting, people who are a little bit older, your baby boomers and gen xers, they want to see not for profits thrive, they’re very generous in giving, they support volunteering and now I think more recently this young generation, with a 30 year age gap and sometimes more, are embracing the same sorts of causes that are driving their purpose forward, their desire to connect with communities, and to support the not for profit and social causes.”

To help organisations support a thriving millennial workforce Davis, alongside Purposeful consulting lead Drew Corby, will hold a two-hour workshop in Melbourne on 10 October.

The masterclass, Attract, Retain and Thrive: Managing Talented Millennials, hopes to outline why millennials stay at or leave certain workplaces and which workplaces are able to attract and retain top millennials and how by providing case studies and practical examples.

“We want to talk about some of the things that people don’t normally talk about with millennials and that’s the upside and what we can actually do in a productive conversation to optimise workplaces to enable them to thrive,” Davis said.

“So we’re going to basically offer a bit of a framework that organisations can use to really attract that top talent and retain them and also we’ll do a piece around how to make your organisation as healthy as possible regardless of whether there is millennials there or not.

“I think we can all agree that organisations can benefit from a bit of purpose, a bit of an emphasis on volunteering, well being and learning and growth.”

Wendy Williams  |  Editor  |  @WendyAnWilliams

Wendy Williams is a journalist specialising in the not-for-profit sector and broader social economy. She has been the editor of Pro Bono News since 2018.

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