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Retaining Millennial Workers


Thu Sep 15 2016

Retaining Millennial Workers

At the close of part 1 of our three-part series on Millennial employees, which sought to shed light on what distinguishes this generation from the ones before it, I asked how your organization could attract and retain Millennial workers who, on average, stay at a job for only 18 months. The answer may be as simple as acknowledging these employees’ individual value to your organization. Rather than bundling all your Millennial workers under the same stereotypical category, consider each employee as an individual with unique strengths and weaknesses. 

From my years of experience, I have seen there will be a certain percentage of top performers (10-20 percent), medium performers (about 50 percent), and low performers (20-30 percent). This holds true for Millennials, just as it did for our generation. So the real question may be: How can your organization attract and retain the highly in-demand top 20 percent of Millennial recruits? 


A recent study by KPMG and Marcus Buckingham revealed fascinating findings regarding current HR practices and their impact on Millennials. According to KPMG research, Millennials are looking for “purpose in their work.” They want to know that what they do matters and that they are valued. It follows, then, that retaining the top 20 percent of Millennial workers has everything to do with acknowledging them as individuals with their own unique perspective and skill set, and providing them with a sense of purpose within the organization. It all goes back to the same principle: To avoid the pitfalls of hiring based on stereotypes, it is imperative to value each Millennial hire as an individual who offers a unique contribution to your company. Millennials have embraced individualism like never before. By making it obvious that your company values their individual skill sets and assigning projects based on their strengths, you will provide Millennial workers with a sense of pride and purpose in the workplace to match their outward expression of individuality. 

In the KPMG study, researchers found that 60 percent of managers at the global F1000 companies surveyed were familiar with purpose in the work space and could succinctly explain it, while the other 40 percent of managers were not aware of its importance. Furthermore, managers who strived to provide a sense of purpose in the workspace contributed to decreased turnover and increased team morale.

On the other hand, team members who worked for managers who did not promote purpose were less satisfied with their jobs. A year later, the results were definitive: Managers who actively fostered a sense of purpose in their team culture experienced a 5.6 percent employee turnover rate, while managers who did not experienced a 9.2 percent turnover rate—a significant difference.

Another study conducted by the Marcus Buckingham Group found that more than 70 percent of Millennials expected their employers to focus on mission-driven (or societal) issues. In addition, 70 percent wanted their work to include a creative element, and nearly two-thirds believed that management should provide “accelerated development opportunities” to keep them interested in their jobs. According to another recent survey, this demographic seeks the answers to three main questions when determining whether to leave a company:

  • Do I believe there are opportunities for me here at Company X? 

  • Is someone here (manager) working with me on developing my career and opportunities here? 

  • Does someone here (manager) care about me?

According to Chris Yeh, co-author of The Alliance: Managing Talent in the Networked Age, Millennials are the largest segment of the workforce today, which means that retaining workers of this generation is essential. Therefore, it would behoove leaders and managers to make every effort to better understand and communicate with them.


Luckily, engaging with Millennials isn’t as challenging as some might believe, and it is vital for retention. In the KPMG study, more than 50 percent of Millennials indicated that they would leave their current job within 12 months. However, with renewed efforts from managers to foster a culture of individuality, creativity, and compassion, companies stand a fighting chance of improving retention rates among Millennial employees.

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