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Leadership Development Blog

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Retaining Millennial Employees Through Leadership Development

Posted by Paul O'Keefe on Feb 11, 2016 2:44:37 PM

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Welcome to the 21st century and the dominant face of the workforce: Millennials. They are young, belief-driven, better educated and more diverse than the generations preceding them. Born between 1980 and 2000, they number over 66 million and are the majority generation in the labor force. By 2020, millennials are expected to comprise 46% of the U.S. workforce. Given the retirement of older generations and the lack of working Gen-Xers (a mere 16%), huge gaps are springing up in the labor force. As millennials take more vacant positions, including senior posts, they’re bringing their values and beliefs with them.

Many employers are finding that millennials, driven by these values, bounce from job to job. Once they've attained the talent, employers become preoccupied with how to retain millennial employees.

Why is this ideals-driven, highly-educated group migrating from job to job?

The Loyalty Challenge

Deloitte’s 2016 Millennial Survey found that two-thirds of millennials want to leave their job by 2020 due to the “loyalty challenge.” They are simply not loyal to their current employer and feel free to leave. When asked if they would leave for a new company or do something different if they had the choice, their responses were eye-opening:

  • 13% plan to leave in less than 6 months
  • 25% plan to leave within a year
  • 44% expect to leave in two years
  • 66% expect to leave in five years, by the end of 2020
  • Only 16% plan to be with their employer in 10 years

Interestingly, 12% of these millennials are department heads and 7% are on senior management teams, yet 57% of them expect to leave before the end of 2020. This is a large amount of executive talent and investment leaving.

Why The Lack Of Loyalty?

Developing as a leader is a value that millennials deem important. They understand that leadership skills are necessary and recognize that theirs were lacking upon exiting college. Subsequently, they feel their employers aren’t doing enough to grow these skills and ensure another generation of leaders. Overall, 63% feel their leadership skills aren’t being developed, and only 28% believe their current employer is fully utilizing their skills.

For a millennial this is grounds for disenchantment, which leads directly to disengagement. As their dissatisfaction with leadership development increases, so increases their likelihood of exiting. At the same time, their exit timetable accelerates. Organizations must analyze their leadership development practices if they want to retain millennial employees.

Looking Deeper Into Leadership Development

When comparing millennials who plan to stay with those who plan to leave, clear differences arise in several areas that fall under leadership development. Millennials need to feel a sense of purpose, utilize their skills, have opportunities for professional development and receive effective mentoring. The greater the satisfaction in these areas, the more likely they are to stay.

Sense of Purpose and Skill Utilization

Millennials must feel a sense of purpose and that their skills are being utilized. Of those millennials who plan to remain with their current organization, 88% feel a sense of purpose and 86% feel their skills are being utilized. Alternatively, only 63% of those planning to leave feel a sense of purpose and only 62% feel they are using their skills. Nothing can disengage millennials faster than having no purpose or feeling that their skill set isn’t appreciated. An employer must deliver on this front in order to retain millennial employees.

Learning Opportunities and Professional Development

The more millennials are pleased with the opportunities for professional development, the more likely they are to stay. Of those who plan to stay, 83% are satisfied with their learning opportunities and professional development; whereas, only 58% of those who plan to leave are satisfied. Millennials place a high value on training and development opportunities. They to want learn new skills and acquire new abilities to remain competitive. Employers must supply these opportunities to retain millennial employees.

Mentoring and Coaching

Among millennials, 68% of those who expect to stay have a mentor; whereas, only 32% of those who plan to leave have them. Of those with a mentor, 83% are pleased with this part of their work, 94% are satisfied with the quality of advice provided by their mentor and 91% are pleased with the level of interest their mentor shows toward their work.

Millennials have a strong need for coaching because they were raised receiving constant coaching and feedback. They carry this into the workplace where they want and expect it. Simply, they crave feedback. They desire personal coaching so they can grow and improve. Effective coaching and mentoring is a sure means to retain millinnial employees.

Developing the Millennial Leader with Practical Steps

Delegate, delegate, delegate. Take potential millennial leaders and give them goals, responsibilities and tasks. Provide opportunities for growth that allow them to shine. This helps satisfy their need for responsibility, deepens their sense of purpose and aligns it with that of the organization.

Develop relationship. Have a meeting, get a cup of coffee, Skype, etc. and talk about the organization’s goals as well as their values, your beliefs and even their lives. It doesn’t have to be time-consuming or overly formal. A text, email, or a quick two-minute conversation works fine. Answer their questions, give feedback and encourage reflection. Meet with them consistently, but also give them space to grow without feeling suffocated. This allows them to feel connected and necessary.

Develop and expand leadership training and development opportunities. Such opportunities include workshops, classes, work-embedded training and online modules. Consider tuition reimbursement. It feeds directly into developing your employees and increases retention. One study found that employees who received tuition reimbursement were twice as likely to stay as those who didn’t.

Provide formal mentoring and informal coaching. Coaching and mentoring programs help retain millennial employees. One study found that employees with a mentor were 23% more likely to remain than those without, and mentors were 20% more likely to stay than those without someone to mentor.

Retain Millennials By Developing Them Into Leaders

Understanding the value system of millennials is an absolute necessity. This generation values leadership development, which includes having a sense of purpose, utilizing their skills and receiving quality mentoring. These are "non-negotiables" that, if lacking, can easily cause them to leave. Millennials want to be inspired and motivated. They desire to grow forward and upward, and they’re looking to management to lead them. It is in management's best interest to step forward and do it.

 

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