Millennial workers hold the keys to the future for many small businesses, which is why some professional consultants argue companies of any size should focus on keeping them happy.
While older generations may question the millennial‘s worth ethic or balk at their desire to balance work and life, in order to keep this generation loyal to a company, the business has to offer growth, responsibility and flexibility.
“This workforce is hungry for new experiences and challenges,” says Rohan Mathew, co-founder and executive director of The Intersect Fund, the non-profit focused on helping low income entrepreneurs. For small businesses that want to retain the really talented ones they have to offer a career path, he says.
The millennial generation -- or Generation Y -- is by far the most mobile and tech savvy and because they grew up with social networks, like Twitter and YouTube, more opinionated then generations before them. Because of that, career experts say small business owners should give them the ability to weigh in on all business agendas, if they want to keep them.
“They are accustomed to stating their own opinion, it doesn’t matter at what level,” says Shirley Engelmeier, CEO and founder of InclusionInc, the company that provides inclusion and diversity training. “They want to collaborate, strategize and participate in the decision making.”
The whole idea of command and control still exists in many companies across the country, but the ones that have a team of loyal millennial workers say they know this group is used to working a little differently.
“Generation Y will form 75% of the workforce by 2025, and a study done by Millennial Branding shows only 7% are working at Fortune 500 companies,” says Engelmeier. “That’s a pretty huge differential and the main reason is because the hierarchy still exists.”
According to Engelmeier, an effective way to get the millennial workers engaged and to keep them wanting to come to work is to let them partake in regular meetings and provide access to the higher ups on a frequent basis. The company, no matter the size, also has to recognize that this generation cares about life outside of work and offer the ability for them to balance both.
“Generation Y has seen their parents work their buns off for an organization to not much avail,” says Engelmeier. “They really value their own life and want the flexibility to leave early this day or work at home that day.”
Unlike large corporations that have many departments and opportunities to move up, small businesses are limited in the growth they can offer a millennial worker. One way around that, according to Mathew, is to allow the employee to work on his or her own project 10% of the time. The project can be whatever the employee wants, granted it is something that will benefit the business.
“It gives them a chance to take on a new challenge,” says Mathew. “They stay interested and motivated and it builds loyalty.”
Since Generation Y is very accustomed to working on their mobile phone in a coffee shop or sending email in the middle of the night, this group expects the company they work for to allow them the flexibility to work remotely and at different hours then previous generations. If the business isn’t dependent on specific business hours and is still a stickler for when the employee comes to work, it can turn off a millennial worker who will quickly jump to the next gig.
“Having a flex work policy gives a company a huge competitive advantage,” says Mathew.
At The Intersect Fund they have a completely flexible work environment which means employees can work from home any day and don’t have to clock in at a specific time. The Intersect Fund has an online tool that employees use to log all their tasks eliminating the need for constant face time.
“They know how to use the tools to stay connected to work,” says Mathew.