When young people talk about wanting faster promotions or higher salaries, it’s a red herring. What young people really want at work is opportunity for personal growth, but they’re scared that you won’t be able to give that to them, so they ask for a promotion instead. The problem is that a title change and four percent raise are not going to matter much to the twentysomething who is not planning to climb your corporate ladder anyway.
What will matter? Here are some ideas to consider:
1. Offer good projects.
It’s not that young people won’t do bottom-rung work. They will. Every twenty-two year old understands that someone has to operate the copy machine. The important thing is that this should not be the whole job. One hour a day of getting coffee is fine if the rest of the day is spent writing feature articles for Vogue. Today the workplace is transactional. There are not long-term promises, there is, What can you do for me today? Tell the young worker what you need done, right now, and tell him or her what growth opportunity you will offer in exchange, right now. We all know that jobs are not long-term engagements anymore, so don’t make the promise of interesting work based on a long-term stay.
2. Flexible hours.
When managers institute a policy for measuring work completed rather than hours at the office, employee turnover decreases by more than 50%. Younger workers are the most indignant when it comes to being required to work 9-5 every day. So instituting flexible hours will have the most impact on this group of employees. Don’t be shy about countering a request for a raise with an offer for flexible work days. In poll after poll young workers say flexibility is more important in a job than money.
The average salary increase is four percent. Even if it were double that, you are not going to change anyone’s life with that raise, and they know it. But training and building a new skill set can change someone’s career by opening new doors. So find out what sort of skills your employees are looking to build and help them with that education. Also, keep in mind that training doesn’t have to cost your company a cent. Young people place enormous value on mentoring. They want constant feedback. Offer structured, constant feedback in place of salary increases and promotions. If the mentoring is good, the lack of promotion won’t be a sticking point.
4. Intrapraneurship opportunities.
If you ask young people what their dream job is, most will say entrepreneurship. But most don’t have any idea what sort of company they might start. So, in the mean time, while they’re dreaming up company ideas, they need corporate jobs. You can endear yourself to your young employees by giving them intrapraneurship opportunities – these are startup situations within a larger company that give participants training for when they want to start their own company. You can also help a young person to engage in work by explaining why a given skill will be essential to their future as an entrepreneur. In one of the great ironies of the new generation, if you teach someone skills to run their own company, they are more likely to stay longer at your company.
I’m curious to hear from readers. In a workplace where people switch jobs all the time, what are other things that make you stay in a job?