It has become conventional wisdom that millennials are a flighty lot, opting to bounce from one job to the next on a whim, but the cause and effect of that behavior has not yet been fully analyzed.
Sarah (a pseudonym for the purposes of this article) lived a life that many would envy; she worked for a Fortune 100 top-tier technology firm in a sales position that she conducted entirely on a remote basis. As a 32-year-old, she was able to travel to far away exotic places while also working. The real kicker was that she was earning approximately $700,000 a year while never once needing to commute or go into an office.
Last September, Sarah put in her two-week notice to resign from her job so that she could pursue other interests.
Which begs the question: If a job with a high six-figure salary, remote-only working arrangement and complete freedom to make your own schedule at a top employer is not enough to hang onto a talented millennial, then what is?
There are many Internet lists out there that name items or policies employers need to attract millennials: Amenities! Beer in the fridge! Ping-pong tables! Unlimited vacation days you will be too guilty to use! However, in the end is it entirely futile to attempt to hold this generation in one place?
HOW MILLENNIALS SEE IT
Millennials are survivors of the Great Recession, where many were forced to find their own means of earning an income through working gigs on a freelance or contract basis.
The gig economy has tremendous appeal to millennials because it allows for a flexible schedule and complete control over when and how they work.
One other component is the environment in which millennials were raised: They are the product of the information era. This is a generation that has had instant access to essentially the entire wealth of human knowledge for as long as they can remember, which has given rise to a surge in a do-it-yourself (DIY) mentality.
Millennials might want to be a stock broker one day, and a television producer the next — and with a simple Internet search, they can cram and learn the basics in order to do so. The millennial generation is of the mindset that they can do anything they choose and that they are never locked into one career path.
HOW TO REALLY ATTRACT A MILLENNIAL WORKFORCE
• Offer the usual perks and gimmicks, but don't make it a big selling point.
Millennials will know when they are being pandered to, and any overly obnoxious attempt to be a “cool” employer will come across as forced.
• Build small clusters of entirely autonomous teams.
Each small team of workers should be allowed to operate their own budget, make their own schedules and devise their own job titles and responsibilities. These clusters' performances should be measured in a competitive manner against each other, with compensatory awards to the winning groups. Monetary incentive is the only “prize” that will get any attention. The teams should be encouraged to swap job responsibilities within their teams regularly to prevent any one employee's role from becoming too stagnant.
• Do not go overboard with work-from-home offerings.
Although working on a remote basis can be a big draw to certain people, you want your best people all interacting with each other. The remote trend represents a tremendous brain drain that is taking place in the corporate world. Millennials might think they want to be working remotely, but with the right environment, an office will be better in the long run for everyone involved.
Allowing millennials to operate in a professional environment that is competitive and also on a team in which they are free to work entirely as they see fit — as long as they achieve the desired end results — is likely to be your best bet at attracting and retaining them as productive employees within your enterprise. Let them decide as a team if there is room in their budget for beer in the fridge, or if they would rather earn a little more take-home pay. The results will speak for themselves.
Greg Deveault is the founder and chief executive of Modern Thought Management, a boutique consulting firm with a focus on servicing individual, family, corporate and institutional clients. He also serves as the chief financial officer of Awesome Content, a media content-creation studio, and the chief operating officer of FZZ, a venture-capital-backed startup aiming to disrupt the bottled-water industry.