Even as members of Generation Y and Generation Z become commonplace in the workplace, these employees continue to perplex managers. Despite your best efforts to be successful at finding, hiring and managing millennials, many of these professionals may already be laying the groundwork for their next career move.
Businesses of all sizes have difficulty recruiting and retaining skilled talent, regardless of demographic group. This has been an ongoing theme in the eight annual surveys of financial leaders conducted by Robert Half and the Financial Executives Research Foundation (FERF).
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When it comes to millennials, the challenge may be even greater because they aren't taking a one-size-fits-all career path to become tomorrow’s leaders. Financial leaders often see this generation as being job hoppers who have too little drive for working long hours and too much reliance on technology.
Clearly, millennials — those born roughly between 1980 and 2000 — are unique from their predecessors in many ways, and they may require a modified management strategy as a result. Follow our six suggestions to improve upon your plans for finding, keeping and managing millennials.
1. Learn what makes them tick
As a group, millennials have been widely studied. They are highly educated with a diverse range of talents, and they tend to gravitate to jobs that align with their personal beliefs.
While there are always exceptions to generalizations about any group, here are some conventional observations:
- They’ve been affected by the Great Recession and its aftermath, along with the explosive growth of student debt.
- They tend to change jobs more than older generations, perhaps because they’re settling down and starting families later.
- They're part of the first generation in history to be immersed in technology throughout their lives.
- They stand out with their problem-solving skills, curiosity, confidence and interest in personal and professional growth.
2. Offer a variety of challenging assignments
This generation derives a sense of purpose and satisfaction from new experiences, which give them opportunities to apply their skills in different ways and make them more well-rounded employees. Vary the projects they work on, as well as the teams they work with, so they’re constantly learning new techniques and methods.
Make good use of their energy and enthusiasm from day one by offering interesting and high-profile projects that match their abilities and leverage their strengths. Encourage fresh thinking by letting them bring new ideas to the table and helping them to feel valued by management. Find opportunities for them to collaborate on assignments with more experienced staff members, which will build camaraderie with the different generations in your accounting and finance department.
3. Provide regular feedback
“Millennials are accustomed to, and appreciate, steady feedback and guidance from authority figures,” says Syed Hussain, vice president of Robert Half Finance & Accounting. Make sure they know they’re on the right track, he adds, or offer course corrections by giving them the feedback they thrive on, via email, informal chats and even weekly recap meetings.
A Generation Z survey shows these employees often prefer face-to-face interaction with their managers. That's why you should provide frequent performance appraisals, encouragement and career counseling. You should take a sincere interest in your workers' job satisfaction and career growth, and maintain an open-door policy with them.
Once you understand the professional goals of your millennial employees, you can reward their good work in meaningful ways. With millennials, that may include an increase in salary or benefits, scheduling flexibility, training opportunities, choices of location, enhanced work space and travel opportunities.
4. Offer professional development, training
“Millennials rank ‘opportunities for professional growth’ and ‘job title’ higher than Generation X or baby boomer employees,” says Hussain. To improve your recruiting and retention while reducing millennial turnover rates, provide opportunities to obtain professional certifications. Engage them in conversation about their desired career paths, and discuss their level of satisfaction with their work at your organization.
Robert Half research shows businesses are offering professional development resources to help their millennial workers prepare for leadership positions. CFOs said their organizations most often provide onsite training (60 percent), opportunities to attend conferences, seminars and webinars (57 percent), and mentoring programs (55 percent).
This generation places a lot of value on skill development. If millennials feel they aren’t receiving adequate opportunities to maximize their skills or acquire new ones, it can drive them to job hop. By offering regular training and professional development opportunities, you will inspire your employees to learn, help them grow professionally and establish roots in your organization.
Put all the pieces together with The People Puzzle: Building and Retaining a Talented Accounting and Finance Team.
5. Check in regularly
You should touch base often with staff members. Many of the professionals in these generations want to work for managers who take a sincere interest in their job satisfaction and career growth, and who maintain an open-door policy.
Of course, despite your best efforts, you may not be able to retain some of your Gen Y and Gen Z team members as long as you’d like. When millennial workers do move on, invite them to an exit interview. Ask them what they enjoyed most about working for your organization, and even more important, what they didn’t like. Their insights can help your firm become more effective at recruiting and retaining talent, in general.
6. Offer flexibility when managing millennials
Millennials value work-life balance. You may need to rethink the employee benefits you’re offering when formulating your recruiting and retention plans. In addition to competitive salaries, consider perks such as telecommuting, flexible hours, comp time and more vacation days.
In spite of the air of mystery surrounding this generation, millennials can be catalysts for change. They seek out roles in which they can develop professionally, and they are technologically astute. Once you know what makes them tick and the work scenarios in which they flourish, you’ll have an easier time recruiting them, managing them and retaining them.
Then, as baby boomers retire, and millennial employees take on a growing number of leadership roles in the workplace, you’ll be glad you worked to develop this next generation of managers.
Editor's note: This post was first published in 2015 and was updated recently with current information.