At a time when markets seem most volatile (economically and socially speaking), millennials are busy trying to carve careers and move up the ranks with an insatiable appetite. While major shifts in culture, innovation, consumption, and leadership continue to define our current work world, an optimistic light appears to be shown by growth opportunity within job postings.
Nearly all job opportunities targeting an eager workforce promise bright and shiny jobs complete with learning, compensation, benefits, and most important – growth opportunity. The chance to progress laterally and advance vertically ranks so highly for motivation that most candidates are willing to compromise a significant portion of salary for it. Why? Satisfaction, excitement, purpose, learning, and the potential to move up.
If you’ve conducted interviews and asked candidates for the most important aspect of a new job, 8 out of 10 times you’ve likely heard candidates express desire to learn, grow, and advance through the organization (compensation is rarely noted). Often employers nod in agreement; promising advancement, challenge, and ongoing development – but recent data shows millennial churn up to 15% for approximately 30% of companies. Why? Because millennials (also labeled fickle and short-sighted) have had growth opportunity over-promised and under delivered. Common catalysts for “job jumping” include boredom, painfully slow ascent, believing contributions don’t matter, and yielding to the pretense growth opportunities never materialize.
Not all organizations can or will follow through on promise, whether limited job capacity, slowed retirement rates, or lack of lateral movement are to blame. The reason may also be due to environments not conducive to learning, leadership development, and innovation, which may have been overstated in the first place.
Gone are the days employee tenure lasts a lifetime. Most Millennials and Gen X’ers already have multiple job titles to their name even in budding career years (and in many cases where upward trajectory and challenge are cut short, they have no qualms creating their own – as Brian Wong did). Eventually, employees feel misled, grow tired of empty promises, experience career boredom or restlessness (or feel left behind), and seek greater fulfillment. So, they leave in search of a better fit. This is not only disappointing for high achievers, but also hurts the bottom line and proves challenging for leadership transition and succession planning.
It doesn’t have to be this way!
As the saying goes, “If you have to tell everyone you’re cool, you’re not.”
If growth isn’t your organization’s forte, don’t pretend it is. Play up other strengths, benefits and opportunities, and avoid giving candidates an impression of advancement within specified time frames. Set a fair expectation of responsibility, influence, career progression, and where opportunities exist to strengthen skillsets. For example, traditional accounting firms may not offer rapid advancement, but can often present relocation opportunities to global offices. While job scope may be identical, this type of option still provides personal and career growth through broadened knowledge, diverse market experience, and a stronger network.
Further, make clear your intention to chart goals and progress mutually, to ensure employee input and accountability on success and satisfaction. Employment is a two-way street, and the onus is on employees to communicate desires and concerns too. Millennials are hyper-communicators and there’s no excuse to bypass input.
Leverage Other Areas of Growth
It is important to understand challenge and fulfillment are not linear in approach. That is, growth exists in more than one area for employees.
“Employees will always perform at their best when the environment is conducive to growth.”
This assertion shared by Forbes supported observation of growth as a key motivator, and further identified four areas of growth potential to explore:
- Financial: Goes without saying, monetary growth is a motivator. If augmented salaries aren’t feasible, explore creative development of bonuses, commissions, RRSP matching and/or profit sharing, or benefits (such as coverage for gym memberships).
- Career: Talented people want to advance. Bigger titles, more responsibility, nicer offices, and other tangible additions all serve as motivators to those seeking career advancement.
- Professional: For those wanting to broaden knowledge, strengthen skillsets, and making progress on a daily basis, professional growth is of utmost importance. This is what HBR named the “Motivational Power of Progress”.
- Personal: This is where “soft skill” development comes into play – a strength many MBA’s recently infused as a core value in traditional programming. Interpersonal, communication, leadership, and even camaraderie skills can all be enriched through personal development.
The benefit to flexible growth opportunities is that most come with no price tag. All it takes is strong leadership, proactive communication, and creative implementation. While you may not offer all four areas of growth, at least leverage those you can offer to engage and retain top talent.
Using Leadership To Improve Satisfaction
Entrepreneur Contributor and Kaltura CEO Ron Yekutiel recently developed “The CEO’s New Years Resolution”, aimed at improving employee satisfaction, excitement, and inspiration in daily tasks. In it, Yekutiel identified 10 ways for employers to improve satisfaction and engagement, championed by CEOs to carry through organizations:
- Realign around Vision and Mission: Employees need a clear understanding of the company’s vision to help maintain motivation. Remind them what it stands for.
- Clarify Roles: Team members should not only understand the organization as a whole, but also need to grasp how they (and others) fit into the big picture. This improves productivity and keeps them on task.
- Monitor Success: Constantly assess what’s working and what’s not, and adjust as needed. Have clear key performance indicators in place to measure objectives.
- Empower Employees: Especially important for millennials – give employees some autonomy to use their strengths and talents, and ensure they have the tools to do their jobs.
- Invest in Middle Management: Investing in these managers helps ensure effective team management and close connectedness to executive vision.
- Train and Educate Team Members: Improve and advance skills of employees. Reward excellence to sharpen skills of top talent.
- Improve Communication: Invest in building (face to face) relationships, thereby building trust and connection.
- Settle HR Issues Immediately: Define rigid deadline to settle issues, and don’t settle for anything less.
- Streamline Onboarding: Evaluate current process and look for areas of improvement. Don’t let new employees fall to the wayside and “find their own way”, or relegate them to “binder-reading”. Reconnect for feedback in six months and take it seriously. More effective onboarding means smoother transitions, a more productive team, and less employee turnover.
- Hold Regular Meetings: Employees should have regular interaction with key leadership. Meeting with senior executives generates widespread perspective on company-wide goals and progress, and provides an open forum for sharing concerns, ideas, and feedback.
The CEO’s New Year’s Resolution may not lead you to perfection, but implementing action and constant dialogue goes a long way in fostering and delivering growth for ambitious employees, and retaining top talent.