How Can a Workplace Retain Millennials Effectively?

//How Can a Workplace Retain Millennials Effectively?

How to Retain Millenials?

There’s an interesting HSBC advertisement – what would you be if there were no labels? It’s another way of asking who are youreally – without your job title, position and specific ‘generation’ label.  But labels can be helpful as a shorthand.

Today we’re considering Milliennials (born between 1981 – 1996), what they’re looking for in the workplace and how organisations can recruit and retain the very best.

According to the Manpower Millennial Careers 2020 Vision report, employee demographics across the generations are fairly balanced:

  • 35% Gen X
  • 35% Millenials
  • 25% Gen Z
  • 6% Boomer

Despite this, Millennials appear to get more airtime and certainly seem to provide less professional company ‘stickiness’.

The workplace has changed most significantly during their tenure than any other. Uncertainty is a common theme.  From recruitment processes to Covid, to the cost of living, it can feel like a bumpy and insecure time. That’s not even mentioning the war in Ukraine, fingers hovering over the nuclear button and lack of appeal and security in even the ‘top’ jobs!

Millenials are a key generation who work longer hours than previous generations (40 – 50 hours per week according to the Manpower report). They are keen to have a social impact and are quick, flexible learners.

So how can employers best retain millennials?

It all comes down to three key elements:

·      Communications/transparency

·      Impact/making a difference

·      Personal Development

Poor communication is often how companies fail to retain millennials

(Photo creds; Yan Krukov)


We hear, most commonly from young adults who are considering moving jobs, that they felt ‘mis-sold’ about the role they had been appointed to do.

Of course, the young person has to take their own responsibility for asking questions before joining (and the millennials, unlike Gen Z and Boomers, are much less hesitant about challenging situations or speaking directly).

But often they are inexperienced in knowing what the most helpful questions might be. Conflicted with a keenness and urgency to get a job, they may suppress any hesitation or queries.

As employers, we may have a tendency to highlight the shinier aspects of the role and skim over the less interesting (but just as important!) bits. But this slowness in coming forward, atypical of millennials, and perhaps lack of transparency in employers is not helpful.

It is essential to be clear on what a typical day looks like.

  • What are their colleagues’ roles and personalities?
  • What the organisation’s good days and less good days look like
  • What flexible working really means as well as longer-term (realistic) opportunities.
  • As well as transparency around earning potential both short and long-term.

Once appointed, regular communication is vital to retain millennials – not just annual appraisals where the criticisms have been gathered and then dumped in a single session.

Address issues as they arise – most commonly they happen through misunderstanding of what should have been done rather than any malintent to misperform. Learning is most effective if behaviours are addressed when they happen.

Appreciating, a job well done – a simple but genuine (and regular)  ‘thank you’ and smile works wonders on morale.

Fostering growth is an effective way to retain millennials

(Photo creds; Daniel Oberg)

Impact/making a difference

Be clear about the values of the organisation. We mean what they really are, rather than the words on the lobby wall) and specifically, what is the company doing to make the world a better place.

According to a recent Deloitte report, Millennials are generally sceptical of most businesses’ motivations. They do not have the automatic respect (as Boomers generally have) for their elders. They question leaders’ trustworthiness and their commitment to improving the world.

The majority of those questioned agreed with the statement that businesses ‘have no ambition beyond wanting to make money’. And of course, until very recently, shareholder return was the primary, if not sole, purpose of most businesses.

Being open about what the organisation is doing to make a difference is key if you’re trying to retain millennials. This is the case even if the impact is small.

The truth (and many untruths) are out there, easily shared through social media which can result in a reputation being shredded in seconds. Recruiting good people is then even harder – all organisations are only as good as the people in their team.

Articulate honestly what the company is doing (or trying to do); what efforts are being made, and what the interests and intentions are; recognising that Rome wasn’t built in a day!

Team days are a great way to retain millennials

Professional growth

Professional growth is one of the key elements millennials look to when deciding whether to stay with their current employer or apply to work with an organisation in the first place. Of those researched by Gallup , 87% said that opportunities for development and growth in the workplace topped their list of priorities.

Without clear pathways to development, millennials actively explore other options with social media providing quick access to beguiling prospects elsewhere. They can consider what opportunities there may be – even if a role change is not possible (just now).

What responsibilities might be shared, and new projects assigned to stretch and challenge the Millennial’s appetite for knowledge and variety?  What skills could (and should) be developed for both their personal and professional growth?

Providing employees with external coaching can be the most important investment in the Professional Development budget. Someone independent to provide a safe space to talk through professional challenges as well as any personal pressures that may be having an impact on their work.

Try this free Wheel Of Life exercise with your employees to help them identify what areas they’d like to work on.

Final thoughts on how to retain Millenials.

Turnover is costly, not just financially but more importantly, in human terms.

Before employees find an alternative role, they have often been disengaged for some time with a likely significant decline in performance.   According to PWC, millennials are the least engaged generation in the workforce. Only 29% are engaged whilst 55% are not engaged and 16% are actively disengaged.

But with the right understanding of your employees’ interests and needs, and an independent, external coach for everyone, your organisation can be a leading employer – good for you, the business, and the millennial!


Are you struggling to retain millennials (or employees in general)? Does your organisations keep losing the good ones? We’re specialists in improving employee retention and performance. We handle both individual coaching and group training for all of your CPD needs. Get in touch to see how we can help your employees be happier and more effective.