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The Millennial Offer: Why It Costs More (and Less) Than You Think

November 2, 2012 by in Analysis, News

Millennial Employees

 

By Nacie Carson, Contributor to Yesware

They’re young, full of infectious energy, and the must-have talent of the moment. Yet attracting and retaining a Millennial employee is both an exciting and scary proposition for most companies. Known for their mixed bag of tech savvy, superior social media skills but poor management know-how—who can blame them, most are fresh out of school—their confidence, sense of capability, and desire for achievement makes them dynamic and innovative in the workplace, but can also make them a flight risk if they don’t get a package they deem worthy of what they have to offer.

 Even at times like these, when the nation deals with an unemployment rate of 7.9%, and when youth unemployment is in the double-digits, Millennials are still particular about where they want to work, what they want to do, and on what terms they want to do it.

So how does a company even begin to tackle the task of putting together the Millennial Offer?

Many organizations—startups and established businesses alike— have struggled to find a compensation model that works for their younger employees as well as the business.  Throwing money at their young employees doesn’t seem to solve the problem. And installing a game room or adding a “beer hour” on Friday’s doesn’t seem to satisfy them either.

Because Millennials don’t value money or a dynamic culture. They value money and dynamic culture, as well as something less tangible: purpose.

This generation grew up to be less concerned with competition and more concerned with tapping into its unique, individual potential.  This is the “winning” generation where everyone is “special” and anyone can grow up to be “anything you want to be”

But as they flood the workforce, Millennials grapple with a harsh reality. They see their jobs as the place where all that specialness, all that potential, will be truly realized and kicked into action; where the purpose for all that potential will be revealed.  They also interpret their potential as meaning they will do something that really matters in whatever field they choose.

Yet the workplace is also proving to be a funny, unexpected mirror for them: More so than in previous generations, a Millennial’s sense of self is integrated with his or her work.  Jobs aren’t just jobs, they aren’t just ways to make a living. They are reflections of who Millennials see themselves as being; they are validations, or contradictions, of their specialness of this “entitled” generation. And in this economy, validation is sometimes hard to come by, unless you get creative.

So when it comes to compensating Millennial workers, money and a dynamic culture are important— but mainly in as far as they are linked with a sense of purpose and doing work that makes an difference.

This is why we see a 29-year-old still living at home with mom and dad, just so he can work at a startup. Or why that 24-year-old account is job-hopping from the Big Four firm to the local shop.

Companies can’t underestimate the fact that purpose can override money and culture when it comes to attracting and retaining this particular type of talent.

In many ways, the need to appeal to a certain “cause” can feel like a heavier and less wieldy mantle for an organization to bear than simply paying more or dropping to casual attire.  But in actuality, it can be simpler than you think.

 Here are some tips to help you attract and retain Millennial talent by compensating them with purpose:

  • Tweak job titles. For many Millennials, the sense that they are meeting their potential and doing work that matters can be created by offering them a job title that sounds impactful without changing the job function. Example: shifting the job title “customer service representative” to “customer relations specialist” or “customer happiness consultant.” “salesperson” to “sales consultant.”
  • Take time for feedback. This outspoken generation Millennials thrives on small doses of feedback because it makes them feel visible and important to management.  Try giving 5 minutes of real-time feedback using the “compliment sandwich” technique (small compliment, piece of constructive feedback, small compliment) once a week, especially to new hires.
  • Ask for their opinions. Sure, the entry-level assistants you hired might not have the years of experience you do in your field, but chances are they still have thoughts about on your current challenges.  Getting Millennials involved is a great way to them feel valued, engaged in problem-solving, and purposeful. And while you don’t have to follow their advice, you never know when you might actually get a few worthwhile insights.
  • Lay out an Immediate Future Plan. The drive for instant gratification is ingrained in Millennials and drive to do something that matters means that they’ll will have a hard time sticking with perceived “grunt” work…unless they can link an immediate future benefit to it.  When conducting performance reviews, for example, bringing on Millennials or reviewing performance, share with them where you see them going in the organization – not over the next decade, but over the next 6 months to a year to 18 months.  By communicating an immediate, timely future plan you are indicating that you have great expectations for that individual and that there is a purpose to whatever tasks they are currently doing.

The biggest thing to remember when dealing with Millennials is that even though we paint them with a large generational brush, each person has it is important to remember that like members of all generations, each individual has different needs, wants, and compensation desires.

But unlike other generations, Millennials will expect you to already understand that.

 

Nacie Carson is the author of The Finch Effect: The Five Strategies to Adapt and Thrive in Your Working Life and founder of www.TheLifeUncommon.net.