How to Give Millennials the Employee Development They Want

The future of your company could depend on how well you understand young workers' need for mobility and provide training to help them achieve agreed-upon goals.
How to Give Millennials the Employee Development They Want
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Young professionals pose a threat to their employers if they find greener grass. And as it turns out, many actively are seeking it.

The 2016 How Millennials Want to Work and Live report from Gallup found that six in 10 millennials say they're open to different job opportunities, and only 50 percent plan to be with their company one year from now.

Companies can’t afford to lose young employees. Business leaders need to focus their efforts on finding an employee-development strategy that works for Gen Yers and aligns with company goals.

Here’s how to provide employee development that retains young professionals.

Enable mobility.

Find out exactly your employees want, and do your best to provide it for them. The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) surveyed 600 workers for its 2016 Employee Job Satisfaction and Engagement report. Of those, 40 percent said an organization’s commitment to their professional development is very important to their job satisfaction.

This is precisely why a talent-mobility program is critical to your retention efforts. Employee satisfaction relies heavily on whether Gen Yers believe they have real growth opportunities within the business. It’s no wonder so many millennials aren't committing to their companies.

Talent-mobility programs give employers a more complete understanding of team members and can assist in identifying top talent. In turn, this helps with succession planning. As employers look ahead, they must share their vision with staff if they want young employees to remain and evolve with the company.

That requires action: Start a formal talent-mobility program that informs how the company recruits new talent, helps manage their careers and develops a high-performing workforce while fulfilling business needs. Needless to say, these programs are not just a set-it-and-forget-it process.

Related: Why Lifelong Learning Drives This Leader

Set expectations.

Employees need to know what's expected of them and their performance. If that's not defined in their job description or reinforced in their daily operations, they may feel lost and disengaged. Workers don’t like to feel as if they’re in the dark. A September 2016 study from Leadership IQ found that fewer than half of employees know if they’re doing a good job.

This speaks volumes. Companies are failing to reward and recognize top performers, provide ongoing feedback, proactively help their talent grow and create a meaningful culture. They're pushing employees out.

Related: 4 Truths You Need to Know About Millennial Job-Hopping

Employees deserve to know not just how management views their performance but also how their futures within the company might look. Supervisors should set clear goals and guide workers to create a realistic plan to achieve those milestones. Collaborate with Human Resources and company trainers to establish a curriculum that aligns with these objectives. For example, "A-team" players often make strong future executives. Invest in leadership training to prepare them as a natural part of succession planning.

The 2016 Gallup report found a strong link between benchmarks and belonging. The 72 percent of millennials who strongly agreed their managers help them set performance goals also reported feeling engaged. The small of amount of time and energy it takes to check in with employees pays off in terms of improved productivity and a happier workforce. These teams produce great results, and they're excited to learn and grow. 

Teach accountability.

The Gallup report discovered another connection: Six in 10 millennials who report that their managers hold them accountable feel engaged in their work. Employees who refuse to take responsibility won’t make it very far playing the blame game. Their toxic mentality will lead them to search for work elsewhere. 

Some might argue it’s best to let these employees leave. Here's a different tactic: Invest in training them. They'll soon realize the value in learning how to take ownership of their work.

Related: How to Motivate Millennials, By Millennials

People who hold themselves accountable see their tasks through to the end. This enables them to experience the full impact they can have on the company. Once they realize they can affect their circumstances, they'll understand they aren't simply victims to outside influences. 

Providing ongoing feedback is the best way to teach accountability. Use performance data to help workers visualize how they stack up against the expectations you outlined together as part of their development plans. Because they've co-created the framework, they're more willing to make the right adjustments and improve productivity.

Offer flexibility.

Empower employees to be more independent, and show trust and respect by offering flexible work arrangements. If a worker wants to set her or his own pace for employee development, work to agree on a time frame that accommodates this schedule but also responds to the business' needs. Deadlines can be an incredibly motivating tool. Still, maintain an openness to discuss potential dates and find common ground. 

Perhaps your employees want to work from home certain days to maintain work-life balance and manage child care. Offer those trade-offs -- with well-defined ground rules -- and make team members individually accountable for completing their tasks. Don't assess their value based on hours spend in the office. A far better measurement is whether they're hitting deadlines and delivering quality work.

Related: 3 Ways to Keep Employees Productive at Home

Your employees want to feel respected and trusted. Demonstrate both by giving them the freedom to manage the details of their own schedules. If or when they drop the ball, offer constructive feedback right away as a lesson learned. Then, guide them as they find solutions that will expand their potential along with your company's capacity.

Related: 10 Ways to Appeal to the Next Wave of Workers: Generation Z