My grandparents lived and worked in a different world than we do today. And as a 36-year-old, my Millennial friends (now 20-37) and I cannot even fathom what the workplace and the employer/employee relationship used to look like – before smartphones and leggings, and when “because I said so” was an acceptable answer to a staff member’s question.
A shift in the workforce
As we look at today’s new workforce, a major difference is that many Gen X workers (now 38-53) who entered the workplace 15-25 years ago were good at working independently, figuring out how to get things done by themselves, and meeting their Baby Boomer bosses’ (now 54-72) expectations. That’s because many Gen Xers were latchkey kids at age 8, 10, or 12, so they had a unique learning opportunity as children to figure out their own homework (before Google) and take care of themselves (without burning the house down). They also were a much smaller generational group than the Boomers, so when they entered the workforce, they did what they were told – without pushing back or asking their supervisors “why?”. They had little power to push back because of their size, so most Gen Xers fell in line and did exactly what the Boomers requested of them in order to advance their careers. Most decided to play the “Boomer Game” and just did their job.
But things in our world – personally and professionally – have changed drastically in the last 20 years, and today, the employer/employee relationship is very different than it used to be. By 2020, Millennials will outnumber the Baby Boomers and Gen Xers in the workplace – meaning more pushback by the younger cohort is expected – and since everyone is hiring, new hires today have much more power moving forward than employers may like.
While it can be frustrating to managers who worked their way up the ladder after painstakingly waiting their turn and paying their dues, Millennials who push back on old ways of doing things should be viewed as helpful, not as a hindrance. After all, what they’re asking for – flexibility, a voice, more appreciation, etc. – is what ALL employees want. And we all know how valuable negative client feedback is, so we treat it as a “gift” that allows us to see the evolving needs of our customers and make adjustments over time for them. Why not see employee pushback and recommendations for change in the same light? Let’s consider employees our internal customers, with whom we must evolve with to retain, and make an effort to change the way we see their pushback.
How to retain your staff
We need to retain our new hires longer, so we must ensure managers and supervisors at all levels are effective communicators. Their staff probably were not raised like they were, so it is critical that leaders communicate their expectations more clearly to staff. It’s not enough to say, “the dress code is business casual” to a new hire. “Business casual” is a relative standard that each employee will view differently, and it’s sure to lead to a missed expectation when that new hire does not realize that her “dressy” flip flops or her “nice” leggings are not considered appropriate for the workplace. Expectations and requests must be more clearly defined than ever before, because staff can’t read managers’ minds. And it’s not “common sense” to know “how it’s always been done” when someone is new – they do not know what you want.
To improve employee retention, work to shift the mindset of your managers to understand today’s new workforce, and ensure they have the right training to effectively communicate with their employees. Building strong, positive, genuine relationships with staff is the best way to extend the tenure of new hires, which will reduce employee turnover over time.
Remember, the one-size-fits-all model for staffing and leadership no longer works, so organizations must encourage their managers to understand what their ever-changing internal customers are looking for in an employer and continue evolving to become a place where people want to work.
Did you know managers account for 70% of the variance in employee engagement? Make sure your management staff makes employee engagement a top priority with Achievers’ ebook Engage or Die: How Companies That Act Fast on Engagement Outpace the Competition.