The American workplace is changing fast. As more Baby Boomers reach retirement age and disconnect from their careers, their places are being taken up by Millennials. Defined as anybody between the ages of 18 and 34, Millennials became the largest living generation this year. And now that the worst of the last economic recession is behind us, Millennials are becoming an increasingly important force in companies large and small.

In fact, a Brookings Institute study last year reported that Millennials could make up as much as 75 percent of the American workforce by 2025. Put more simply, Millennials will increasingly shape the future success of all companies and industries. Which means that understanding what Millennials want in the workplace is paramount to attracting and retaining the kind of talent any business needs to thrive.

While it’s impossible to generalize about an entire generation, a wealth of research has outlined the priorities and work environments favored by Millennials. Based on those findings, here are some best practices that can help you design a workplace that is attractive to the talent you’ll need in order to flourish.

1. Emphasize Your Mission

One of the key findings in the Brookings Institute study and other research about Millennials is that this is a generation that craves meaning in their work. In fact, in a study by the Intelligence Group, 64 percent of Millennials said it was important for them to make the world a better place. For an employer, that means clearly and consistently communicating the positive impact their company makes in people’s lives. Providing unique benefits, like the ability for employees to have paid time off to volunteer, also sends that message.

2. Foster Collaboration

Plenty of companies have ultra-competitive, even cutthroat, work environments. This may be OK with Baby Boomers and Gen X employees, but it’s going to turn away a lot of Millennials. According to the Intelligence Group study, a whopping 88 percent of Millennials seek a collaborative work culture. With that in mind, companies that promote work in teams and other cross pollination efforts will rank high among Millennials.

3. Be Flexible

Among the top priorities for Millennial employees is flexibility. This translates into giving employees the option to telecommute and work non-traditional hours.

4. Promote Mentorship

Past generations have regarded bosses with a sort of reverence that Millennials just don’t understand. Instead of a hierarchical, top-down work environment, Millennials crave a workplace where their bosses are their mentors, providing the kind of guidance and direction that allows them to both progress in their careers and feel valued at work.

5. Be Ready To Communicate

Millennials are used to being heard. Whether it’s among their friends on social media or by their Baby Boomer parents, Millennials have grown up with the expectation that their opinions matter. For employers interested in attracting Millennials, this means creating a workplace where even the newest employees can voice their ideas about new products and strategies – even to the CEO.

6. Encourage Restlessness

One aspect of a flexible workplace goes beyond the ability to spend the day working at a coffee shop. Millennials also seek out employers that let them pursue tasks that lie outside their job descriptions and departments. Companies need to make it easy for Millennials to learn about what different projects are taking place across the enterprise and, importantly, give them the freedom to engage in the work that interests them.

7. Don’t Expect Them To Stay

According to one study, Millennials expect to hold between 15 and 20 jobs in their career. While every company wants to hold on to its most talented employees, understanding and acting on the fact that few Millennials want jobs for life is an important part of being an attractive employer.

One way to do that is by including generous outplacement services in your benefits package. Along with providing severance pay, by providing outplacement services – and by communicating its availability– companies will be seen as supportive of their employees under all circumstances.

This matters. For one thing, Millennials who feel as though their employer helped them pursue their career interests elsewhere will communicate about that support to friends and peers in the industry. This will boost your company’s reputation and make it easier to attract talent in the future. It also means that Millennials who are let go may very well return when the opportunity arises, bringing new skills and experiences with them that will help your company.

20 April 2015

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