Five-and-a-Half-Ways to Manage and Retain Your Millennials

You’d better nurture this group — they’re three-quarters of the workforce

By Daniel Abramson, HRSource

There’s a lot of information out there in Internetland about how millennial workers (roughly ages 26 to 41) are different from previous generations, especially boomers (ages 59-77), and how they need to be treated differently in the workplace.

Let’s take that statement as true but not absolute and explore five-and-a-half actions that BrandSource members can take to better manage and retain their millennial employees. This is important. Why? Because by 2025, 75% of the total U.S. workforce will be populated by millennials!  (Source: The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.)

Generally speaking:

1. Millennials are loyal to people, not companies. Given the disruptions they’ve seen in the global labor markets over the past 10 to 15 years, millennials would rather hitch their wagons to a good and trustworthy leader than to a massive corporate entity. If you want to inspire and retain your millennials, become that good leader and mentor.

2. Millennials value time differently than prior generations. This demographic views time as something to spend rather than invest. “Work-life balance” is not just a mantra, it’s something millennials actively pursue, and they tend to regard the job as a way to segue from one free-time activity to the next. The manager who honors the (reasonable) personal time-off requests of his or her employees will experience lower turnover. Even so, be prepared for the day when one of your best employees takes four months off to visit 12 countries or mountain bike along the Grand Canyon. 

3. Encourage diversity and divergence. Many millennials prefer to work with people from diverse backgrounds. Practice diversity in your hiring and allow it in your workplace, setting minimal, non-judgmental standards for office attire. 

4. Keep it in the now. Millennials don’t trust long-range strategic plans; you can save those for the corporate biggies. Keep your group’s time horizon close, focusing on tomorrow, next week and maybe next month. Forget the five-year plan for now!

5. Feed your millennials, don’t beat them. More than any other generational group, millennials have been raised to collaborate rather than compete. Do as much as you can in cooperative groups and teams, and provide modest group and individual incentives, such as a team picnic or a few hours off with pay, for appropriate accomplishments. And don’t forget the selfie walls and participation certificates. (I like this one and it’s easy to do!)   

    5.5. Why this crazy number? To make an important point: If you can’t give a millennial everything he or she wants, meet him or her, as the song says, “in the middle.” Millennials are a lot like many businesspeople in that they understand goals, costs and revenues; they are open to good business practices and want to be kept in the loop. So, set some ground rules you can enforce, then make some promises you can keep. Meet your millennials halfway, updating them frequently and maintaining short time intervals for monitoring and rewarding project and production benchmarks.

Daniel Abramson is managing lead of HRSource, a comprehensive collection of customized employment tools and turnkey solutions exclusive to BrandSource members. For more information, contact Daniel at (540) 535-8484 or

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