Entitled. Self-absorbed. Lazy. These are a few of many unflattering words used to describe my generation, the Millennials. We're the population of smartphone-clutching, selfie-snapping trophy winners born between 1982 and 2000, and we represent the largest share of the U.S. labor market.
Despite tireless research and countless articles profiling millennials, we're still a mystery to you. Unfortunately, the dominant narrative is that we're a nuisance to employers because we expect everything to be handed to us and will abandon you at the slightest sign of discomfort. Although this is a gross exaggeration, MSPs are right to worry about millennial employee satisfaction. In our recent webinar, How to Close the Technology Skills Gap by Growing IT Talent, noted information technology expert, columnist and accomplished author, Gary Beach, discussed the challenge employees face as more baby boomers retire and leave the workforce. Most notably, two in three millennials expect to leave their current company by 2020.
So what's behind this mass exodus? And how can business owners or managers incentivize the younger generation of workers to stay? It's time we learn the truth about Millennials, our career preferences and how we define company culture.
Are Millennials "Job-Hoppers?"
You've probably heard "millennial" and "job-hopping" used together in the same sentence on multiple occasions. It's been a stigma associated with this cohort for quite some time, but is it an accurate reflection of our behavior? First, we have to be really careful when interpreting data. Yes, as stated above, 66 percent of millennials have expressed interest in leaving their company in the next few years—and this should worry you enough to take corrective action!
At the same time, millennials are not inherently more likely to quit than previous generations when they were the same age. Ben Casselman of FiveThirtyEight captures this perfectly in his "Enough Already About The Job-Hopping Millennials" blog post. As he sees it, "comparing today's 20-somethings to today's 30- and 40- somethings misses the point." Younger workers typically change jobs more frequently because we're newer to the workforce. We're still figuring out what we want out of our careers and often have more freedom to be choosy because we don't have families to support. But does employee churn vary across generations? According to their research, there was actually more turnover among young workers (defined as those between 22 and 29) in the mid-1990s as compared to today.
A Company Culture Fit for a Millennial
It's not about securing the corner office or brandishing business cards boasting an authoritative title. Yes, us millennials tend to see ourselves as company influencers, but we desire more than prestige. Recall the earlier finding about exit intent. According to the Deloitte Millennial Survey 2016, 19 percent of millennials already hold senior-level positions (defined as being heads of department and above), but more than half of these individuals expect to leave their current company by 2020. What's missing? Leadership training.
The same report finds that 71 percent of millennials who are likely to leave in the next two years aren't satisfied with the development of their leadership skills. Also worth noting, leadership was the number one answer when asked which attribute businesses value the most. In short, your millennial employees want to grow within your company and develop into future leaders. How are you helping them get there?
People-First Decision Making
Many believe that compared to other generations, millennials are incapable of acting independently. Perhaps this assumption has contributed to impacted individuals believing investment in their leadership training has been insufficient. Data from IBM's Myths, Exaggerations, and Uncomfortable Truths: The Real Story About Millennials in the Workplace, however, suggests that Gen X employees are the most likely to request input from their colleagues when making decisions.
But what factors carry the greatest weight during millennials' decision making process? For both senior and junior millennials, personal values reign supreme, followed by impact on clients and personal goals and career progression. Notice how these respondents base their business decisions on the needs of the individual. Now, this doesn't mean these millennials neglect to consider their business's bottom line and financial targets, but it's worth considering their prioritization of people above profit. Indeed, as we'll see in this next point, quality of life is a major concern for millennials.
When removing benefits and financial compensation from the mix, Deloitte found having a good work/life balance far outranks all other considerations for millennials who are evaluating job opportunities. Be cognizant of the fact that this balance varies, especially when your staff face major life changes that require more of their free time. For example, an employee may have been able to devote more time to work when they were originally hired, but as a new parent now needs to shift priorities around. Technician burn-out is an unfortunate reality for many MSP businesses, but one that is preventable with frequent check-ins and the right IT management platform.
Deloitte survey results also suggest millennials are looking to their managers to guide them along their career path. To retain more talent, you have to act as their mentor. You should have a vested interest in their professional development anyway, but actively growing their skillsets could contribute to lower employee turnover. Millennials who plan "to stay with their organization for more than five years are twice as likely to have a mentor (68%) than not (32%)." While correlation does not imply causation, millennials are looking to hone their craft and advance their expertise in their chosen profession. By being their coach, you can gain their loyalty and continue their upward trajectory.
Along the same lines, being their mentor means pushing them to improve with challenging and meaningful work. We've already established that millennials want to be grown into leaders. In order to get there, they need you to assign them high value projects that provide true learning experiences. If your technicians are forced to babysit your tools or complete mundane, low-level tasks, they could feel stuck and undervalued. How long do you think they'll stay under these conditions?
There's the perception that millennials expect constant acclaim because they grew up receiving constant praise. Are you afraid to provide honest feedback on your millennial employees' performance because you think they need to be coddled? Don't be! Deloitte's findings indicate millennials who are held accountable are more likely to report a high level of job satisfaction. Moreover, the same IBM study cited earlier found that 35 percent prefer managers who are ethical, fair and transparent, whereas only 29 percent want a boss who recognizes their accomplishments.
Collaboration and Friendships
According to Forbes, 88 percent of millennials prefer a collaborative working environment, rather than a competitive one. It's no coincidence that we've seen more open concept, collaboration spaces pervade modern offices as the millennial workforce grows. As a result of this, you may find that the social aspect of work is more important to millennial employees. In surveying millennials, Entrepreneur reports that "friendships in the workplace have a significant impact on boosting their happiness (57 percent), motivation (50 percent) and productivity (39 percent)." In contrast, boomers are less interested in forming workplace friendships. But again, this is largely due more to age and life stage than to generational differences.
Continuum's Millennials Sound Off!
I feel privileged to work for a company that values employees of all ages, including fellow millennials like myself! Continuum CEO Michael George is particularly supportive of our generation and even challenged widely held beliefs that millennials are problematic to business productivity and profitability in his Navigate 2016 keynote. This is a testament to the merits of the millennials currently working at our company, a rather sizable talent pool! In helping to demystify the elusive millennial beyond statistics and data points, I reached out to a few of these individuals to learn what they look for in a rewarding company culture and why they've stayed with Continuum. I think you'll find a lot of overlap between their responses and the qualities listed above.
"Continuum provides a great atmosphere where you’re given the immediate opportunity to collaborate with others, learn and grow at a fast pace and give input that you know will be highly considered. I really enjoy working at Continuum because I’ve found the work environment to be awesome and I’ve gained 10-20 new friends who all enjoy working hard and playing harder. There’s also something to be said for working somewhere you can make a mistake and have a constructive conversation about how to fix it in the future, without feeling like you’re going to get in trouble." ~Courtney Swift~
"Working at Continuum has been my first full-time job out of college, and it’s been the most ideal situation I could have imagined! I’m lucky to have joined a group of intelligent, savvy and creative people on the Marketing team and the company as a whole. A year and a half later, and I still love coming into work every day. I’m constantly challenged and learning new things to not only grow as an individual but help Continuum grow. I’ve been able to attend conferences, travel throughout the country, try things I haven’t done before and I’m so thankful! The cherry on top? We always have such a blast together! I’ve made some lifelong friends at Continuum and I can’t wait to see what’s next." ~Alicia Lazzaro~
"There is so much opportunity to grow as a professional at this company. You have the chance to work and collaborate with various teams across multiple departments. This was my first job out of college, and I can’t believe how much I have grown. Continuum doesn’t micro manage you, rather they give you the tools to be successful and let you run with them. It’s a very empowering ecosystem. Continuum truly is a differentiator in the managed IT services arena. We are working for a company whose mission is to be the world’s leading provider of service-enabled software that monitors and manages the increasingly complex information technology needs of small and medium sized businesses. You never feel like a cog in a huge wheel, going unnoticed. You feel like you are a vital team member and everyone’s work , including your own, is fundamental to the continued growth and success of Continuum." ~Courtney Margossian~
As a millennial recently entering the workforce, the main criteria I was looking for was to have the opportunity to grow and expand upon my existing skills, learn new skills and also be in an environment where I felt comfortable yet challenged. The culture at Continuum encourages collaboration, creativity, thinking outside the box and fully executing your ideas – all of which are things I really value. I can genuinely say I look forward to coming into work because I feel inspired and supported. I love the people I work with. Also, Pizza Thursdays are a definite plus!" ~Lily Teplow~
"What I enjoy most about working at Continuum is having the opportunity to grow in my career and feeling like the work that I’m doing is contributing to the success of the organization. You might consider us the “everyone-gets-a-trophy” generation, but I think it’s more about us wanting to make an impact. I don’t want to be a small cog in a big machine, I want to be challenged by the work I do and feel like it’s helping contribute to a greater mission. At Continuum, I get thrown new challenges every day and get to be part of a growing organization, which are some of the many reasons I enjoy coming to work each day." ~Nate Teplow~
Retain More Millennial Talent
In tearing a page out of the Who's songbook and "talkin' 'bout my generation," I hope I've presented enough quantitative and qualitative data to debunk any of the myths you may have held about millennials. My aim was to not only dispel your concerns but paint a more realistic portrait of those belonging to this age bracket. Ultimately, we are willing and able to work and energized by exciting new challenges that help us become the leaders we want to be. Additionally, we value teamwork and forming relationships with our peers.
Perhaps I'm biased but, if anything, all of these qualities are assets when growing and scaling your managed IT services business. You can offload the knob-turning tasks and maintenance to a trusted partner. If you really want to move the needle, however, you need to reallocate employee time to more strategic initiatives like strengthening client relationships or managing an outsourced support staff. After learning that millennials thrive in interpersonal work environments and pursue management and leadership experience, you should be well-equipped to take your business to the next level.
All that's left to do is create a company culture that enables this talent growth. In How to Close the Technology Skills Gap by Growing IT Talent, Continuum partner and President of Greystone Technology Group, Peter Melby, walks through real examples of how to do this, providing specific examples of evaluation criteria and sharing his experience managing millennials, firsthand. To download the webinar, click the banner below!