Paul Whitelam

By Paul Whitelam

June 27, 2017

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Millennials don’t always get the best reputation. Boomers often say they’re lazy, privileged, ungrateful, and glued to their phones. But they’re also tech savvy digital natives who know how to use social media to the brand’s advantage. Oftentimes they’re the driving force behind workplace changes because they introduce fresh perspectives and new strategies.

Despite how you feel about them, it’s time to accept millennials in the workforce. With 70% of service organizations reporting that they will face a talent shortage in the next five to ten years due to a retiring workforce, it’s becoming increasingly important to hire younger talent. Unfortunately, millennials have the lowest percentage of employee engagement in the workplace, which means keeping them around is a lot more challenging.

In last week’s Engage Your Employees installment, we discussed the severe costs of low employee engagement. This week we’ll discuss the challenges of engaging the largest, and least engaged employee population. Let’s begin with why they’re so difficult to retain.

Millennials seek development

Despite the negative things people say about millennials, most are eager to learn and determined to advance in their careers. Per Gallup, 87% of millennials rate professional or career development opportunities as important to them in a job. One of the top reasons they leave their jobs is because they were dissatisfied with their career advancement.

For older generations of workers, this typically isn’t as important. They’re closer to retirement and may have already achieved their career goals. But millennials are the newest college graduates and are eager to get started in their careers. Most aren’t willing to spend their entire career at a single company because they’re always looking for the next step in development.

Millennials desire work-life balance

Just as millennials are embarking on new careers, many are embarking on new life adventures. Many are buying homes, getting married, and having children. As much as they care about career development, they also want to enjoy life, whether it be by starting a family, traveling the world, or just spending time with family, friends, and hobbies. With so much going on in life outside of work, this generation cares deeply about schedule flexibility. More than other generations, they want a job that will sync up with their lifestyles and allow them some free time.

Millennials desire meaning

One of the biggest challenges in the way of engaging millennial employees is their emotional need to fulfill a higher purpose. It’s extremely important for them to feel that their job has a higher purpose, and they’re not just wasting their time. Per Gallup, feeling like their job has meaning is one of the strongest drivers of retention for millennials. This might be because they’re fresh out of college and want to use their talents and strengths to do what they do best. Or it could be that they’re too young to waste time on a job that feels meaningless. Nevertheless, it’s key that this need is fulfilled if you want to keep millennial workers around.

How can you engage millennials?

At the moment millennials feel largely indifferent about their work, but there are ways to improve their experience. If you’re struggling with millennial retention, or suffering from the aging workforce crisis, try some of these strategies.

Plenty of perks

While you might think a raise would be sufficient for millennial retention, you should instead focus on benefits you could offer. According to Gallup, millennials are more likely than any other generation to say they would change jobs for a particular benefit or perk. They especially appreciate perks that directly impact their lives and the lives of their family. It makes sense considering many millennials are starting families, have student loans, and desire a work-life balance.

Popular benefits for millennials include:

  • Paid paternal and maternity leave
  • Student loan reimbursement
  • Childcare reimbursement
  • Tuition reimbursement

Flexible scheduling

Maintaining a solid work-life balance requires flexible scheduling, both in terms of work hours and location. This could mean allowing employees to make their own schedules and work from home if needed. It’s harder to offer these perks in field service because it’s difficult to forecast demand and your techs are already remote workers. But there are still ways to implement these strategies.

If you can’t allow techs to make their own schedule, offer plenty of paid vacation time. Or sync your scheduling solution with your employees’ availability so you can plan around someone taking time off. If your tech needs to work from home, as in case of paternity or maternity leave, they could play a consultative role to techs in the field, and assist them when they get stuck.

Development opportunities

The best way to attract millennials is by leveraging two of their biggest desires—development and purpose. Focus your attraction and retention strategies on delivering learning opportunities and career development. This way millennials are assured that their jobs provide plenty of opportunities for skill development and career advancement.

Keep in mind millennials may want to pursue independent project work, attend conferences, take classes, and join professional organizations. Give them the flexibility and resources to do so, whether this means tuition reimbursement, or time off work.

Entitled or not, millennials are here to stay, and they won’t always be receptive to traditional methods. Learn how you can adapt to this new workforce, instead of waiting for them to adjust to your standards. 

Keep an eye out for more installments of Engage Your Employees by subscribing to Field Service Matters.

Paul Whitelam
By Paul Whitelam

Paul Whitelam is Group VP of Product Marketing at ClickSoftware, where he works with field service management leaders across a variety of industries. Paul has more than twenty years’ experience in enterprise software, working on both the technical and business aspects of many of the areas that are fundamental to field service such as mobility and sensor technology (Nokia), data management (Endeca), and machine learning, SaaS and GIS (HERE).

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