The Generation Game: Attracting and retaining millennials in a competitive market

One of the most common mistakes among investment firms is to assume that each generation of employees are the same. In reality, the cultural differences between millennials and older generations are vast and that changes the way they work; what they want from, and how they choose employers. Failing to appreciate this means that many employers are finding it a growing challenge to attract and retain younger workers who are capable of contributing hugely to performing teams.

From our own research, we know that millennials aren’t afraid to be more selective about their employers, they’re driven by their values, they seek responsibility and growth and they aren’t afraid to turn down an offer or move elsewhere. With the average length of service sitting at around four years, ensuring the most talented people stay within your company can be a significant challenge.

With so many opportunities presenting themselves to the new generation, from nomadic digital working to the lucrative and dynamic world of tech, it’s crucial that companies adapt quickly to ensure they are attracting, retaining and motivating the best millennial talent.

The big three

While it can be challenging for businesses to hire young people, it isn’t for the reasons that have long been held as true. We often hear that millennials are demanding and not willing to work hard, however the reality is that young people are simply more vocal and open about what they expect from a job and the company they work for. They are simply voicing what many of us wish we had when we first started our careers – flexibility, opportunities for career development and work-life balance – and well done them!

Ensuring that your business address these three factors is essential for attracting, retaining and motivating highly skilled millennials in investment and private equity.

Finding balance

Like most of us, millennials want a good work-life balance and a healthy lifestyle. While work forms a huge part of our lives, taking time for yourself, your friends and your family is crucial for performance. It enables you to recharge but also to have a diversified identity and opportunities for growth. While older generations have had to get used to the fact that a good job often requires sacrifice, millennials are more determined to make work suit their needs.

Flexibility plays into this to a degree but it goes beyond simply implementing flexitime into an organisation. It’s important that businesses reflect on the way they work at present and establish what ‘flexible working’ means to their company and how it can play out in practice. What flexibility really demonstrates is a respect and a trust in your employee, that is what is key here. If someone doesn’t feel these things then they are less likely to want to out-perform and stay in their role.

Technology has completely revolutionised the way we work. From timekeeping and organisational platforms to workplace messaging apps and shared file drives, it has never been easier for people to work remotely and during the hours that suit them best. Working behind a desk is no longer the only and best way to work. This can be daunting for employers that have only ever worked this way and can see no alternative, but younger employees appreciate the flexibility.

Flexible working can also have productivity benefits and help address issues such as gender imbalance, so firms should embrace this change rather than resist it. Flexible working doesn’t have to apply to an entire organisation – after all, most companies are likely to be employing three to four generations at a time – but remote or home working should be offered when team members might benefit from, or desire, the flexibility that it can bring about. I recently heard that the founder of one of my clients asked his head of HR to go round the floor on a Friday afternoon to account who was at their desk. What message is that sending? It reflects a lack of trust and respect, two things that if an employee feels from their employer then they will be far more committed and willing to work hard.

Flexibility should also be considered when it comes to benefits. While older workers may value pensions, time-off and private healthcare plans, millennials may want perks such as gym (class pass) memberships, holiday discounts, concert tickets or cycle to work schemes. With their employees in mind, employers should create a more flexible benefit system that can fit each employee with ease. It doesn’t need a big budget, just a bit of creativity and an understanding of what their individual employees appreciate.

The overarching benefit of flexibility that doesn’t seem to be taken into account is that the quality and creativity of people’s work when they are fully charged and regenerated far outweighs that of someone exhausted and full of resentment. A person that feels that their health and wellbeing is respected is far more likely to work hard and want to over perform. They are also far more likely to stay, which means that the cost of hiring decreases and retention increases.

Building loyalty

The cost of losing staff is around 7 times a person’s salary when you take into account the time it takes to hire (distracting from the day job), the time it takes to train/onboard, the cost of recruitment fees, the negative effect on morale once they leave and all the additional costs. It is essential therefore to improve retention.

Gone are the days of people spending decades at one company. Millennials aren’t afraid to move sideways and up the ladder much more frequently than older generations, and recruiters no longer question candidates who have switched jobs a few times over their career. Of course, job hopping isn’t ideal but moving from role to role every three to five years is the new normal. So how can you retain a generation of people who are a high flight risk?

Along with showing respect and care for the individual in a firm, another way to foster loyalty and ensure that the best people stay with a company for longer, is showing that you’re investing in their career development. Instead of traditional training courses and workshops, more complex and immersive development practices should be established, such as mentoring programmes, coaching and thought out project work and how it’s staffed. An easy addition is starting with more regular and constructive feedback and praising great work; ‘Well done’ and ‘thank you’ are the four words least used in business.

Once an employee is within your company, you should give them opportunities to explore new responsibilities and more senior roles as they progress. Enabling employees to experience a diverse range of roles in your company can help them secure new skills and diversifying their work helps them to satisfy the itch to explore new opportunities without leaving the company.

An employee that’s being continuously developed and feels that they’re valued and being invested in is an employee that is more likely to remain with a company.

With the new generation of investment professionals markedly different to those who preceded them, employers have to adapt if they’re to continue benefiting from the greatest talent. Attracting and retaining millennials can seem like a challenge and many employers can be left wondering what they’re doing wrong, but if they get it right the benefits are immeasurable.

Employers need to learn and appreciate the different values, aspirations and expectations of the new generation. They must then assess their current approach and adapt to suit the multi-generational workforce and encourage millennials to buy into the business and stay part of it for the long term.

Although it feels daunting, it’s really quite simple, take the time to understand individual needs and respect them and deliver on them. You will then have a thriving workforce that will collaborate, create and achieve.