How CEOs Can Help Retain Millennial Employees

millennialAccording to the most recent study by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, it’s estimated that the 16-24 age group will comprise nearly 34 percent of the work force by 2024.

Forget the clichés you’ve heard about millennials being slackers looking for participation trophies. Here’s a fact: Millennials are among the most educated. According to a Pew Research Center analysis, 4 in 10 millennial workers ages 25-29 had a least a bachelor’s degree in 2016 – compared with 32% of Gen Xers and even smaller percentages in generations before them. And contrary to the stereotypes that suggest millennials are underperformers, research has shown that they are in fact prone to overworking.

As a millennial, I know my generation seeks much more than just a paycheck and workplace perks. Retaining millennials (and employees, in general) has everything to do making a difference and feeling engaged in our work.

As CEOs, it’s about the culture we create. And, the buck starts and stops with us!

Courting Millennials

Your goal, like mine, needs to be to make your company a place where people enjoy working. Do that by making the culture so sticky that people don’t want to leave!

Here are four key ways my company, Stirista, keeps our team engaged – approaches that will work for you as well:

  1. Professional growth

Millennials, especially, like jobs that prepare them for professional growth. I’d like to think it’s a combination of the relatively small team size and culture that provides even new employees the opportunity to take on major responsibilities early on.

“As CEO, you must try to make your workplace one you wished you worked for straight out of college.”

We also stress the importance of keeping their skill sets relevant and encourage team members to participate in workshops, conference calls, webinars, etc.

  1. Flexibility

While we have some semblance of a hierarchy, it’s not overly formal or hierarchical. I attend weekly team meetings and enjoy an easy, casual rapport with the team, as do our managers and directors.

We also have a flexible PTO (personal time off) policy compared with more traditional (and rigid) vacation and sick day policies.

Flexible hours also are a big draw. Managers work with fellow team members who might need a more flexible schedule temporarily to take care of unexpected, last-minute emergencies that inevitably occur.

  1. Fun

We have a business casual dress code (including jeans on Fridays) and weekly taco Fridays that our San Antonio staff looks forward to as an opportunity to enjoy their favorite breakfast tacos and friendly banter with colleagues to cap off the workweek.

Team members also can participate in competitive sports (we currently have four company teams), video games, and happy hours, as well as our traditions of holiday parties, wine Wednesdays, Age of Empire Fridays and other family-friendly activities. This has helped build camaraderie and lifetimes of friendships, even for our more introverted employees.

  1. Long-distance culture

The U.S. Stirista team is spread across four states, and the Stirista team as a whole covers three continents. Most of our departments have at least one member on a different continent. Creating a culture that spans long distances has become a fundamental part of our way of doing things.

In addition to using team chat and project management software, I encourage every manager to have at least one video call with remote employees every week. Voice and text communication is great for getting work done, but nothing beats video for building relationships.

We also have annual retreats that give employees an opportunity to interact with their co-workers outside of work. So far, these retreats have been country-specific; however, they have been so successful in building a healthy culture that we are planning a company-wide retreat for next year!

As CEO, you must try to make your workplace one you wished you worked for straight out of college. In my experience, if you do that, the rest falls in place. Above all, I’m most proud of the fact that in eight years, only four people have ever willingly left Stirista for another job. I attribute that to the camaraderie, lifelong friendships and engaging culture we’ve cultivated. If you apply the principles I’ve described, you can look forward to hanging onto your millennials – and other employees – for a long time, too.

Related: Keys To Improving Company Culture In Times Of Rapid Growth

Ajay Gupta
Ajay Gupta has served as CEO of Stirista since founding the company in 2010 at age 26. Without accepting external funding, Ajay has overseen the data-driven, marketing services company’s rapid year-to-year financial growth as it has progressed from two employees, working out of an apartment, to a 41-person team spanning three continents. Ajay holds a bachelor’s degree in financial economics and creative writing with a mathematics minor from St. Lawrence University, as well as an MFA in creative writing from Texas State University. He has been named to the San Antonio Business Journal’s 40 Under 40 list, and Stirista has won a DMA Silver ECHO award and a third-place DMN Award.

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