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The Millennials

Economic uncertainty today shouldn’t distract us from other business issues, like that of talent management with its longer-term implications. So it is critical to look at the findings of a survey by Career Systems International on the 17-28 year olds, about 20% of our current workforce, and their needs and wants.

U.S. Bureau of Labor projections suggest that within five years there will be 165 million jobs with only 162 million workers available to fill those jobs. During this same period, the 78 million Baby Boomers who will be occupying more than half of these jobs will start to leave the workforce.

While some economists and statisticians project a gap of up to 23 million workers within ten years, others reject these claims asserting that productivity gains and Goomers working well beyond age 65 will negate such dire predictions. Regardless, one prediction is undisputable: an extraordinary shift in the composition of our workforce is taking place—and within five years, Millennials, 78 million strong, will become the bedrock of our organizations. Therefore, if we expect to attract, engage, and retain these workers, we need to satisfy what Millennials want.

What does this generation want? The study suggests that it wants:
  • The opportunity for professional growth and learning
  • Enthusiasm for their work
  • A job that gives them a feeling of personal accomplishment and contribution

Unfortunately, neither Millennials nor the organizations for which they work appear to be getting these needs met. The study found:

  • 72% of Millennials are doubtful that their managers know what matters most to them in a job—and only 34% report being enthusiastic about their work.
  • Only 59% report that their managers have asked them about the kinds of jobs they would like to have in the future.
  • Only 63% have a plan for developing themselves.

As a consequence, the level of these workers’ engagement appears to be waning, and the likelihood of retaining them appears uncertain. According to the study’s findings:

  • Only 60% report that working for their organization inspires them to be their best.
  • Only 51% plan to stay with their organization for the next one to two years, with 18% actively looking and 65% passively looking (i.e., ready to seize the opportunity to go to work for another company if it will better meet their needs)

Developing, Engaging, and Keeping ‘Em—Where to Start

In a recent Facebook poll, the Millennials were asked what are the toughest issues for them to address when it came to thinking about their careers. The three toughest were:

  • “Knowing what I do best and what’s most important to me.”
  • "Zoning-in on the ‘right’ career goals.”
  • “Getting the support and resources needed for success.”

Therefore, on a tactical level, as a manager, you can immediately start developing, engaging, and retaining your organization’s best future by starting an ongoing dialogue fueled by the following simple, yet powerful questions:

  • “What matters most to you in a job?”
  • “What do you enjoy doing most—and doing least?”
  • “What’s your best thinking about the kinds of jobs you would like to have in the future?”
  • “What do you need from me to help you be the best you can be?”

Career Systems International also had these coaching tips:

  • Don’t expect Millennials to have all the answers.
  • Resist the temptation to disagree or to give them your answers.
  • Listen more than talk.
  • Give your opinion when asked, disclosing your own struggles with similar issues.
  • Tell the truth—it’s more important than making them happy.
  • Trust that their own “right” answers will evolve through ongoing dialogue with a trusted coach-ally.
  • Accept that these answers have a finite shelf-life and that the questions will need to be asked again—and again.
  • Do everything that you promise, and don’t promise anything you can’t or won’t do and explain why.
  • Connect them with others who can help them in ways you cannot.
  • Trust that the result of this ongoing conversation will be much more than “right” answers—it will be a stronger and more gratifying relationship with a more committed and engaged employee.

On a strategic level, an organization’s competitive advantage in the global marketplace will be gained only by harnessing the enthusiasm and innovative capabilities of its employees. Those companies with the most adaptable and most engaged working with the richest mixture of skills, knowledge, and behavioral flexibility will be the ones able to continually respond to ever-changing market demands—and therefore the ones not to just survive but thrive.