Retaining Millennials: What CEOs Need To Know

While dangling free food and foosball tables might be enticing for people looking from the outside in, for Millennials the foundation of a real culture is deeper than that.

 millennialsAccording to the a recent study, Workplace Design: The Millennials Are Not “Coming”—They’re Here, perks are a common attractor for Millennials entering the workforce. Unfortunately, many of those companies believe perks are the answer to retaining Millennials, too.

While dangling free food and foosball tables might be enticing for people looking from the outside in, the foundation of a real culture is deeper than that. In the 2015 study called Myths, Exaggerations and Uncomfortable Truths: The Real Story Behind Millennials in the Workplace from another tech giant, IBM, they found the top long-term goals for Millennials to be making a positive impact on the organization followed by helping to solve social and/or environmental challenges.

Perks are nice, but they’re not what keeps your employees around long-term. You can provide your employees all the perks of Google or Facebook and still have a toxic culture.

“In a culture that embraces uncomfortable conversations, issues aren’t swept under the rug.”

Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is

Claire was an account representative at Digital-Tutors. One day, I found out she was being mistreated by Henry. What made this situation tricky was that Henry didn’t work for me. He was the VP of procurement for one of our largest enterprise customers.

As soon as I found out what was happening, I walked over to Claire’s desk to get to the bottom of what was going on. She explained she’d suffered in silence because she knew making Henry angry would mean losing a lot of business for the company.

One of our core values at Digital-Tutors was respect, which this mistreatment clearly violated. At the time, I didn’t have a plan for how to recoup the costs of losing such a large customer. If you want to motivate your employees to do the right thing then you, as their leader, also need to do the right thing. Claire’s scenario was a chance for me to show her that our values were more than just words.

Build Rituals for B.A.M.

One of the best ways to help your employees stick around is by helping them build a sense of belonging, affirmation and meaning (B.A.M.). There’s many ways to achieve each of these.

A great way to start promoting B.A.M. in your company today is with the 3 Happies activity. To get started, gather everyone in your company and explain the rules of the 3 Happies:

Everyone writes their 3 Happies on a Post-It. First thing in the morning (before checking email or starting work), have everyone in your company share their 3 Happies with their team. Then hang the notes in a public space for the rest of the day. At the end of the day, you (or someone you choose) can take them all down before heading home. Commit to doing this for the next 30 days with your tribe.

With the 3 Happies, you’ll get to know everyone more, building a sense of belonging. Sharing your wins from a previous day helps you feel affirmed for your accomplishments. Meaning comes from the collective aspect. When someone in customer service gets great feedback, that’ll inevitably make it on their happies the next day. Putting them somewhere everyone can see helps everyone share that win.

Embrace Uncomfortable Conversations

After almost a year of hard work, my team at Digital-Tutors launched an overhauled version 2.0 of our online training platform. Almost immediately, we saw a massive increase in subscribers. My executive team and I were exhausted, so I decided it was time to celebrate a little with a weekend of rest, relaxation and wine in Napa Valley.

During our first dinner as a team, Dana surprised everyone: “I can’t work for you anymore.”

Once the initial shock wore off, I had an eye-opening chat with Dana that led to a stunning realization: I’d lost my way. I was so focused on increasing our subscribers, and our profits, that I’d forgotten what mattered most—my people. Here I thought everything was going great, but my company was crumbling from the inside.

While I’m not saying you need to have a heart-to-heart to keep your employees around, the anger and frustration that leads people to quit a job are symptoms of unfulfilled expectations. You might think things are great when they’re not. In a culture that embraces uncomfortable conversations, issues aren’t swept under the rug. They’re resolved through an honest willingness to hear the truth—no matter what it is.


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