Posted by Alexis Lupo.
This is the first part of a two-part series.
The term “millennial” refers to a generation of people born between the years of 1977 and 1995.
Over time, the meaning of “millennial” has evolved to describe young professionals, with an emphasis on unfavorable character traits such as being entitled, self-involved, lazy and lacking in loyalty to employers.
To the contrary, I find that the majority of young professionals in my peer group are health-oriented, technology-driven, insightful, entrepreneurial and highly motivated. Stereotypes do us a disservice in the same way that generalizations have diminished the contributions of other generations and working populations.
Since no one can stop younger people from filling the shoes of preceding generations, it makes sense to find ways to enhance our contributions in the workplace by being receptive to our talents and priorities, rather than painting us with unflattering, broad strokes.
When I received my bachelor’s degree five years ago, many people told me, “It’s tough out there,” but I dismissed their concerns. I wish I had listened. Job hunting was like ordering a steak at a nice restaurant and being served a piece of bologna on a paper plate. There were so many disappointments; nearly all of the jobs in my field required a more advanced degree.
For years the millennial unemployment rate was 12.8 percent, while the national average was 4.9 percent, according to Forbes. Although many millennials are well-educated and technologically savvy, it’s common for industry observers to attribute the employment gap to their arbitrary reputation and being “under-qualified.”
I decided to get my master’s degree while working a full-time customer support job, assuming an advanced degree would put me in a more advantageous position. The time and money spent on getting my master’s was worth it in terms of building my knowledge base and self- confidence, but I still didn’t match up to candidates with the same degree and decades of experience under their belts.
There now appears to be a workforce population shift and particularly strong demand for employees who know how to leverage the communication platforms they cut their teeth on. In fact, the percentage of employed workers under 35 exceeds that of other generations. According to the Pew Research Center, there are over 53.5 million millennials (age 18 to 34) in the U.S. workforce, surpassing Baby Boomers (age 51 to 69) and Generation Xers (age 35 to 50). It’s predicted that millennials will represent nearly 75 percent of the workforce by 2030.
What Can Employers Do?
Employers are going to have to make some adjustments to retain the incoming, if slightly self-involved, talent. Many of my peers find it difficult to understand why their fresh ideas and eagerness to please are acknowledged with nothing more than a paycheck. It’s not surprising that they don’t feel compelled to stick around when their boss breathes down their neck instead of nurturing their talent and treating them as a valued colleague.
I know what you’re thinking: As an employer, it is my job to make work attractive and meaningful for millennials? The answer is “yes” if you want to keep them.
On a fundamental level, I believe one of the most effective ways to retain younger professionals is to support their health. I’m not talking just about physical health, but about mental, emotional, environmental, spiritual and social health. It’s not enough to hand the employee an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) pamphlet. Providing flexibility, positive reinforcement and simply showing you care about your employees’ well-being can go a long way.
Part 2 of this post will feature nine ways employers can attract and retain young professionals.
Alexis Lupo is Lead Proposal and Marketing Associate at WorkCare.