Gallup Tells Us Again What Organizations Need to Do to Develop and Retain Millennials


I've written a lot about Millennials over the years, and read even more, but this latest research from Gallup is probably the most interesting — and insightful — I've seen.

Millenials_working.jpgIt's from a new report titled How Millennials Want to Work and Live: The Six Big Changes Leaders Have to Make, and like most research the Gallup Organization publishes, it is detailed, interesting, and actionable. 

Jim Clifton, the chairman and CEO of Gallup, puts it like this in his forward to the research study: 

Millennials are altering the very social fabric of America and the world. They’re waiting longer to get married and have children, and they’re less likely than other generations to identify with specific religions or political parties.

Defined by their lack of attachment to institutions and traditions, Millennials change jobs more often than other generations — more than half say they’re currently looking for a new job.

Millennials are changing the very will of the world. So we, too, must change."

6 changes that organizations must address

To facilitate that change, there are six functional changes — Gallup calls them the “Big Six — that organizations and leadership must address when it comes to managing Millennials, the largest single demographic group in today's workforce:

  1. Millennials don’t just work for a paycheck — they want a purpose. From Gallup: "For Millennials, work must have meaning. They want to work for organizations with a mission and purpose. Back in the old days, Baby Boomers didn’t necessarily need meaning their jobs. They just wanted a paycheck — the mission and purpose were 100 percent our families and communities. For Millennials, compensation is important and must be fair, but it’s no longer the driver. The emphasis for this generation has switched from paycheck to purpose — and so must your culture."
  2. Millennials are not pursuing job satisfaction — they are pursuing development. From Gallup: "Most Millennials don’t care about the bells and whistles found in many workplaces today — the ping-pong tables, fancy latte machines, and free food that companies offer to try to create job satisfaction. Giving out toys and entitlements is a leadership mistake, and worse, it’s condescending. Purpose and development drive this generation."
  3. Millennials don’t want bosses — they want coaches. From Gallup: "The role of an old-style boss is command and control. Millennials care about having managers who can coach them, who value them as both people and employees, and who help them understand and build their strengths." 
  4. Millennials don’t want annual reviews — they want ongoing conversations. From Gallup: "The way Millennials communicate — texting, tweeting, Skype, etc. — is now real-time and continuous. This dramatically affects the workplace because Millennials are accustomed to constant communication and feedback. Annual reviews no longer work."
  5. Millennials don’t want to fix their weaknesses — they want to develop their strengths. From Gallup: "Gallup has discovered that weaknesses never develop into strengths, while strengths develop infinitely. This is arguably the biggest discovery Gallup or any organization has ever made on the subject of human development in the workplace. Organizations shouldn’t ignore weaknesses. Rather, they should minimize weaknesses and maximize strengths. We are recommending our client partners transition to strengths-based cultures, or they won’t attract and keep their stars."
  6. It’s not just my job — it’s my life. From Gallup: "One of Gallup’s most important discoveries is that everyone in the world wants a good job. This is especially true for Millennials. More so than ever in the history of corporate culture, employees are asking, “Does this organization value my strengths and my contribution? Does this organization give me the chance to do what I do best every day?” Because for Millennials, a job is no longer just a job — it’s their life as well."

I find Gallup's research on most issues to be top notch, and this report is no different. In addition to the "Big Six" issues they detailed, there were three other talent management issues in the abridged version of the report that are worth digging into:

Too often, a disengaged generation

According to Gallup, "Often, Millennials are characterized as entitled job-hoppers, but the reality is that 55 percent of this group is not engaged at work. They feel indifferent about their job and company — and indifferent and entitled are not synonymous. Many Millennials likely don’t want to switch jobs, but their companies are not giving them compelling reasons to stay. When they see what appears to be a better opportunity, they have every incentive to take it. While Millennials can come across as wanting more and more, the reality is that they just want a job that feels worthwhile — and they will keep looking until they find it."

>My take: Millennials get labeled as job hoppers, when in reality, they are simply not being engaged in their job and are struggling to find a workplace that feels meaningful and worthwhile. This is a very different issue, and one that smart managers and leadership can address if they would only focus on communicating more with their Millennial employees and finding out what makes them tick. It's going to vary for each person, but letting them know you care and want to help them grow is key step in keeping them from getting frustrated and jumping elsewhere.

In other words, for Millennials, engagement = retention. 

Millennial turnover costs a whopping $30.5 billion annually

Gallup's data reveals that, "21 percent of Millennials report changing jobs within the last year, which is more than three times the number of non-Millennials who report the same. Gallup estimates that Millennial turnover costs the U.S. economy $30.5 billion annually. Millennials also show less willingness to stay in their current jobs. Half of Millennials — compared with 60 percent of non-Millennials — strongly agree that they plan to be working at their company one year from now. For businesses, this suggests that half of their Millennial workforce doesn’t see a future with them."

>My take: Yes, Millennials need to be engaged, but they also need to see a future and some opportunity for growth in their organization. Management needs to focus a lot more on this, because if they don't, recruitment costs to continually replace workers that leave because they don't see a future for themselves are going to eat them alive. 

Millennials_working_2.jpgFrequent and consistent feedback is essential 

When it comes to managing Millennials, feedback is essential. This is true for all employees, of course, but as the Gallup research found, "Performance management requires a constant focus on feedback, (and) the relationship between the employee and the manager represents a vital link in performance management. As is often the case, communication is crucial for that relationship to succeed."

Gallup is very clear about this: "Millennial workers are more engaged when their managers provide frequent and consistent communication and feedback. Some 44 percent of Millennials who report that their manager holds regular meetings with them are engaged, while only 20 percent of Millennials who do not meet regularly with their manager are engaged. This is similar to older generations; 43 percent of non-Millennials who report their manager has regular meetings with them are engaged."

>My take: This should be a no-brainer, but the lack of regular feedback IS a huge issue in a great many workplaces. Yes, a number of organizations are ditching annual performance reviews, but when they do, the thinking is that they will instead go to a system where employees are given less annual feedback but will instead have a lot more ongoing, regular conversations with their managers about not only how they are doing but what they might be able to do to continue to grow and develop.

In fact, Gallup noted this in the research, stating, "Employees who meet regularly with their manager generate higher performance for their team and company. They are also more likely to agree that they regularly receive recognition and praise, that someone cares about them as people and that someone cares about their development. Effective feedback is rooted in a few essential tenets; chief among them is frequency. The more conversations managers have with their employees, the more engaged their employees become.'

But Gallup found that only 21 percent of Millennials and 18 percent of non-Millennials meet with their manager on a weekly basis. The majority of employees say they meet with their manager as infrequently as less than once a month (56 percent for Millennials and 53 percent for non-Millennials)."

It's not all that surprising

You know what surprises me most about the Gallup report? It's that none of this is all that surprising. 

What the Gallup research does is to underline what we already know and what so many others — including me — have been pointing out for quite some time. 

Want a crash course on what your organization needs to do to recruit and retain top Millennial talent? If you don't know already, this Gallup research is a good place to start. 


About The Author

John Hollon is Checkster's Vice President for Content. He is an award-winning journalist and nationally-recognized expert on leadership, talent management and smart workforce practices who previously was Vice President of Editorial and the founding editor of Before that, John was Editor of Workforce Management magazine, the longest published HR and talent management publication in the U.S.