How to Attract and Retain Millennial Talents in 2020

By PeopleFirst on February 6, 2020

Born between 1980 and 1996, millennials have been quickly filling workplaces around the world. In fact, they are already the majority in the workplace and by 2025, millennials will make up more than three-quarters of the workforce.

There are many stereotypes linked to millennial employees. “Job-hopping” is one that quickly comes to mind, however, it does have a ring of truth as companies struggle to retain millennial talents. According to a Gallup report, more than a fifth of millennials have changed jobs within the year. Furthermore, half of the surveyed millennials do not see a future with the company they are in and might leave within the year.

Worst of all, this trend comes at a high cost for companies. Gallup data shows that actively disengaged employees can lead to turnover costs for a company of about $100,000! Furthermore, these employees’ presence in the company could actively disrupt morale, deliver poor quality work and in the worst cases even lead to workplace fraud.

It is more important than ever to understand the millennial employee. What do they want in a job? And what would make them stay in a job? Based on the latest insights generated from the EngageRocket’s 2020 Employee Engagement Benchmark and other reports from around the world, we are creating a fuller picture to understand exactly how to best attract, retain and engage Millennial talent.

Understanding an Unengaged Generation

Disengagement is merely a symptom. Going even deeper, we wanted to look at the why behind it. Of the 10 drivers of engagement our surveys investigated, recognition and reward quickly surfaced as the main sources of disengagement for millennials. Only 16.6% millennials felt that they received recognition for doing good work and only 15.2% felt fairly rewarded for their contributions.

So while many manager’s first reaction when noticing this trend is that millennials simply do not have the perseverance and patience to stick it out for the long haul, the data suggests another perspective. Perhaps this pattern of job-hopping is a sign that many companies are not providing what millennial employees want in a career – reward and recognition. And the companies who understand that and are able to meet their needs and wants of millennials will have an advantage in retaining them and unleashing their potential.


Grooming Millennials Who Stay

Since we now know that building a culture of reward and recognition is the main gap most companies fail to close when it comes to engaging millennial employees, let’s look at some strategies you can implement to bring reward and recognition to the forefront.

1. Personal Recognition Sessions

Instead of waiting for an annual review or a quarterly report to highlight your team’s strengths, casual one-on-one sessions on a more regular basis can often work better. This is because recognition is more powerful when it is timely and specific. When you are recognising your employee after a year’s worth of work, your comments will largely come in broad strokes. However, a weekly catch-up will allow you to point out what your employee did well in the task or project when it is still fresh. This approach is also more casual and conversational compared to a report, allowing managers to build stronger relationships with their team.

2. Encourage peer-to-peer recognition

Peer-to-peer recognition is when employees across different departments, regardless of job level, recognise and appreciate one another for a job well done. It can be as simple as a thank you card or a pat on the back and can increase the morale of the employees immediately.

According to Marcus Buckingham in his book ‘How Full is Your Bucket’, giving recognition to someone else not just fills the receiver’s “bucket”, but also raises the giver’s morale by filling his own “bucket”.  

One easy way to do it is to provide employees with blank or create “praise groups” on the communication channels you already use, be it Slack or Whatsapp. These groups empower peers to call out and highlight their colleagues achievements in a highly visible way.

Another way to achieve public recognition is to create a company EDM or tap on the existing EDM and create a section to interview and feature employees who have exceeded expectations.


3. Collective Recognition

Another way to build a culture of recognition is to encourage employees to pass it forward. Be it through a shared trophy or a point-based system, employees who are rewarded for good performance can also at the same time be empowered to reward points or pass the trophy to a new nominee the following week. Through this strategy, recognition becomes a continuous process and peers learn to spot and appreciate others around them who are going the extra mile for the team.


4. Celebrating milestones

One effective way to recognise employees’ contribution and more importantly, loyalty to your organisation, is to celebrate milestones such as work anniversaries.

It doesn’t always have to be fancy or expensive, the crucial thing is to celebrate small achievements regularly. You could consider celebrating a successful sprint, product launch, or even a customer testimonial. It will provide your employees a sense of belonging to the organization.


5. Implement a well-defined Recognition Program

Recognition programs usually define standards of performance, and establish guidelines for evaluation methods of employee behavior. Defining clearly about what behaviors or actions you’d like to see from your recognition program is critical. You must consider answering the following questions before starting a recognition program:

What to reward? - You must clearly define on what types of behaviour will be rewarded. Promoting behaviours which are suboptimal for your organisational objectives is detrimental.

How to reward? - The next step is to set clear processes on how the rewards will be given. It need not always involve a monetary component. It can be something as simple as a certificate of appreciation. 

Frequency of the reward? - Determining the frequency of the rewards is very critical. If your high value rewards are too often employees might fail to value it. Consider lowering the frequency for a high value reward and add an element of surprise to it. On the flip side, a simple thanks from a co-worker can happen anytime.


6. Monitor your recognition program.

Your recognition programs might impact across areas/departments of your organization differently. You need to monitor how is your recognition program is impacting other factors like engagement, productivity, and turnover throughout your organization. Collect feedback on a regular basis through customized surveys, and use it to adjust your recognition program wherever necessary.


7. Flexible Rewards

There is no one-size-fits-all reward and the same reward will not appeal to everyone. Therefore, one strategy is to implement a point system for redemption from a larger pool of rewards. Rewards can range from more lifestyle oriented experiences like movie tickets, a meal or even a short trip overseas to more utility-based products like home furniture or a new phone.This range gives employees the autonomy to decide on how they’d like to be rewarded, satisfying a wide range of wants.

This system also creates more immediacy as compared to year-end bonuses as the reward is given in response to specific actions and further encourages ideal behaviour across the team throughout the year.


8. Effective communication and roll-out.

Effective communication is the key, when introducing a new system or approach. It is very important that communication around your roll-out is clear. Everyone should be aligned on the purpose of the program and also with organizational objectives and goals. Setting up recognition programs around goals that leads to confusion will defeat the purpose


You could also consider using the data from your recognition program to inform other business decisions in your organization. If there are any teams with outstanding behavior, you could further conduct a focus study on them to understand how to take those learnings to other areas/departments in your organization


Key Takeaways

Although it is easy to buy into negative stereotypes about millennials, data suggests that the high rate of turnover is often due to disengagement when millennials do not receive the recognition and reward they deserve. Ultimately, millennials do want to stay in the company for the long term and will do so with a company that understands what truly matters to them.

Building a culture of recognition and fair systems of reward becomes more important than ever as millennials make up the majority of the workforce. However there is no single solution that will satisfy everyone and it is important to implement systems that are personalised and peer driven to create sustainable and engaged teams.


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Tags: Leadership, Employee Experience