Your Millennial Hiring Strategy Has a Retention Problem

Your Millennial Hiring Strategy Has a Retention Problem

Emily Smykal

Odds are, you already have some Millennial employees. And you’re going to hire more of them in the years to come. Millennials are the largest generation in the U.S. workforce, so naturally we often talk about how to recruit them. We do it a lot. But it’s not enough to just hire Millennials (or any candidates). Because, and this is especially the case for skilled positions, what’s the point of putting effort into recruiting millennials and then hiring them if they’re not going to stay?

There is a common assumption today that Millennials are more likely to job hop–leave a position after a very short tenure–than previous generations. We know that retaining your new employees is just as important as finding them. High employee turnover is associated with lower productivity, increasing expenses, and decreasing employee morale. So should we be blaming job hopping Millennial workers for our corporate ailments before they’re even hired?

Actually, the data suggests Millennials are no more likely to job hop than previous generations when they were at a similar age. Looking at biennial data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median tenure for all workers ages 18 to 34 in January 2014 was 1.7 years. That is just slightly lower than January 2012 (1.76 years) and slightly higher than January 2004 (1.66).

In fact, some age groups within the Millennial range of 18 to 34 year olds stay with their current employer longer than young people did 10 to 20 years ago. Overall, the median tenure for all U.S. workers ages 16 and up was 4.6 years in January 2014. As the job market tightens and the skills gap seems to widen, it’s more important than ever to understand how the retention of Millennial employees impacts your organization.

Why Is Retention so Important?

Reducing your employee turnover is crucial from many perspectives. Hiring costs money, and uses up resources from HR and other teams. If your talent acquisition staff needs to repeatedly fill a position, that’s time and money which could have been saved if the previous employee hadn’t left.

Plus, failure to retain employees isn’t hidden from view. Your other employees typically notice when a colleague chooses to leave, and if this turnover becomes a pattern, it can drag down employee morale overall. It can even spread outside the office and impact a candidate’s decision to work for you. Websites like Glassdoor post anonymous employer reviews, and PayScale publishes retention data from the Fortune 500 companies.

The latest data from the BLS on job turnover shows that the quits rate–voluntary separations from a job– was 2%, with 2.8 million quits in November 2015. This number has held steady more or less for the last 15 months, with the highest rates of voluntary separations coming from health care and social assistance (+39,000) and non-durable goods manufacturing (+17,000). Even if your industry is not experiencing higher rates of turnover, your recruitment efforts should still focus on retaining millennials (and all talent) once it’s on board.

How are Employers Retaining Millennials?

Employees change jobs for many reasons, and Millennials are no different. Better working conditions, higher salaries and enticing benefits, greater opportunities for advancement and career development, a healthy work/life balance. A study last year conducted by RecruitiFi found that while 83% of employed Millennials aged 22 to 35 understood that job hopping can look bad on a resume, 86% still said that would not stop them from changing positions.

Study respondents also reported they would leave their current employer to pursue a completely different career path (37%), take a job with a competitor (25%) and/or relocate to try living in a different city (22%). Other surveys have found that many Millennials aspire to leadership positions and consider employee growth and well-being as top priorities.

In response, some companies are reducing turnover by focusing on their employees’ preferences. Google widely advertises its emphasis on successful teams and meaningful work over its more eye catching perks like free meals and massages. Mary Barra is promoting the long-term career development of her GM employees. Search engine results for “retaining Millennial workers” repeat the same ideas. Highlight meaning and purpose. Promote socialization and mentoring. Offer unique rewards and fair treatment.

Retaining Millennials and the Role of Talent Acquisition

Talent acquisitions leaders need to focus on sourcing quality candidates. But they should keep retention strategies in mind during this process, and should maintain active involvement in the retention of existing employees. Internal promotions, employee referral programs, employee growth and development initiatives, and employer branding can all be used to reduce turnover.

In fact, any aspects of your recruitment strategies that lead to increases in employee satisfaction and loyalty should be emphasized. Does your organization actively support equality and diversity in the workplace? Do you offer regular training and courses to expand employee skills? Is there a clear path to advancement within your company? If you answered yes to any of these, you should be promoting these ideas through your recruitment methods. And you should continue to promote them internally.

Instead of looking at Millennial workers as job-hopping, self-serving candidates with short attention spans, we should really treat them like any other employee. After all, they want what you want. A sense of purpose within a fair and transparent workplace that focuses on their continued growth as a member of the team. And a competitive salary package to boot.

Candidates are consumers, and providing them with a consumer-quality experience will go a long way when few others are. Read our new eBook, “The Talent Acquisition Leader’s Guide to the New Candidate Journey” to learn more about the topic of recruiting and retaining millennials and what to do about it.
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