2021 April

Employee Retention from a Millennial’s Perspective

by Twila Albrecht, MHS Program Manager

My parents still get a kick out of telling their friends about the letters I used to write to the president of the United States when I was in 2nd grade. We were learning about rainforests and deforestation and I became deeply concerned why the president was cutting down so many trees.

Fast forward.

It’s a year later and I’m watching the Twin Towers fall on the tv screen in my third-grade classroom. [Yes, we had tv screens in our classrooms when I was in third grade]. A war then ensues.

It’s 2008, Barack Obama becomes the first black president of the United States. The year 2008 will then be bookmarked by The Great Recession, where those born near the beginning of my generation were beginning to enter the workforce, or lack thereof.  

It’s 2014 and an unarmed black teenager, Michael Brown, is killed by a white policeman in Ferguson, Missouri.

Climate change, terrorism, and racial (in)justice are some of the movements that informed a generation of socially and environmentally conscious, purpose-driven, tech wizards.

As a generation, millennials (born between 1981-96) are commonly tagged as lazy, entitled, tech-crazed, ‘job-hoppers’. These labels are probably true on our worst days. But, as a millennial, I could think of some other ways to describe us: adventurous, interdisciplinary changemakers that believe in working smarter, not harder.

A quick internet search including the words ‘millennial’ and ‘retention’ results in a plethora of tips and tricks for retaining us. Here’s my quick summary of common themes that millennials are often looking for, and that you are likely already aware of and probably even attempting in your organizations:

  • Opportunities for professional development and mentorship;
  • transparent communication, particularly related to decision-making and power structures;
  • opportunities that matter – some of us still believe we can change the world, and while it may seem far-fetched at times, volunteer and community engagement activities go a long way at creating community and moments of social change;
  • flexibility, flexibility, flexibility – we’re in a pandemic. You’ve likely altered how you are working, so what has worked well, what hasn’t;
  • Authenticity – we want to show up as we are, and we expect the programs and services we are working with to reflect the mission and values of the organization, consistently.

One strategy for taking this a step further is to begin by including millennial voices in developing your retention strategies. [We like to feel special after all.] You might consider asking the following questions of each other; without judgement, daydream:

  1. What brings you the most satisfaction at work?
  2. What are some things in your daily routine that, if you had the power to change, would make coming to work easier?
  3. If you had the opportunity to rewrite the employee handbook, where would you begin?
  4. In what ways do you think the organization needs to adapt to stay relevant, and/or to meet the changing needs of people served and people serving?

As the MHS Program Manager, I’ve really enjoyed working on employee engagement assessments with some of your organizations. MHS, together with MHS Consulting, offers a variety of tools, like the employee engagement assessment, to help leaders and organizations invest in their greatest asset – their employees! We are eager to hear what strategies you are implementing and how we can support you.


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