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Why Millennials want to leave your company

in Culture/Interviews/Tech by

What do Kodak and Blockbuster have in common? If you guessed a business model that wasn’t future-proof then you are correct. Both companies, along with a list of many others were torn apart over the last two decades because they didn’t adapt, reposition and capitalise on emerging technology and trends.

Kodak was slammed multiple times by the photography digitization revolution and later by the social wave movement that furiously birthed billion-dollar company, Instagram. Blockbuster was initially crippled by pirates that continually reincarnated in the forms of Napster, Limewire and now Torrents. The final blow came from legal streaming services Netflix and its competitors. If there was any lesson to learn from these companies’ failures is that future-proofing your business model is imperative to remaining market leaders.

Most companies today have learned to future-proof (to some extent) their business model, but they are about to face a rude awakening in talent retention and internal communication. The winners and losers in the next race will be those companies that Millennial-proof their human-resource strategy.

One foot out the door

Earlier this year Deloitte released some rather interesting results from their Millennial Survey 2016The report outlines that 44 percent of Millennials say, if given the choice, they would like to leave their current employers in the next two years. Furthermore, a perceived lack of leadership-skill development and feelings of being overlooked are compounded by larger issues around work/life balance, the desire for flexibility, and a conflict of values. This issue is only amplified when we realise that in a decade, over 70 percent of the workforce will be Millennials.

Firstly, let’s clear the air. Millennials are not necessarily a new concept. In fact, it is the same repackaged concept of every generation that has preceded it. Like Millennials, their predecessors had to go against the grain to drive innovation. Furthermore, they gained opportunities and advantages that the previous generation snarled at as being a sense of entitlement; The cycle goes on.

Source: Deloitte
Source: Deloitte

What’s different this time around is that Millennials in emerged economies are genuinely disengaged and it is not because of technology but a reflection of macro factors that are exacerbating the situation. One reading could also co-relate economic outlook and the relatively absent drive to settle down with buying a home or a family.

The report also found that Millennials who are parents show somewhat more loyalty than those without children. Australia in particular is home to one of the most expensive real estate markets in the world and few Millennials find themselves in positions to make long term commitments particularly in housing.

Millennials also provide a useful barometer of economic confidence and their current views of future performance. Off that idea, the report found that global economic confidence is optimistic particularly in Italy, Argentina and The Netherlands. However economic outlook by Millennials is negative and declining in Australia, Canada and Malaysia.

Senior talent churn

The report highlights that even those Millennials in senior positions express the intention to leave their organizations relatively soon. These Millennials feel like they no longer have the potential to shape the fortunes of their organizations; while many are already in positions to do so. 57 percent believe they will leave their current businesses before year-end 2020. This is a significant amount of senior talent (and investment) to be walking out the door.

Jamie Pride, managing director and co-founder of REFFIND said “The only time it is too late to address employee engagement problems is when employees have already left the company. While they are still part of the team, it is always possible to take steps to improve engagement.”

Jamie is among a group of visionaries competing within the HR-Tech space that hope to address the issue of disengaged Millennials. Operating within the same space is Culture Amp, who consider themselves ‘people geeks’ and have some interesting approaches to improving company culture. Both companies offer solutions to test, shape and amplify culture and engagement.

Managing Director and Co-founder of REFFIND Source: REFFIND
Managing Director and Co-founder of REFFIND
Source: REFFIND

With REFFIND, Jamie seems to have approached the issue holistically, with a platform that addresses, talent acquisition, engagement, training/leadership and motivation through their various product offerings.

The philosophy behind REFFIND is refreshingly simple: “It’s all about communication and appreciation. Be invested in your employees, and they’ll be invested in you” Jamie said.

“Give people inside information. There’s no better way to make an employee feel valued than to clue them in on management’s goals and challenges, as well as keep them up to date on the company’s products and services.”

Jamie believes that the future needs to be focused on the employee. It doesn’t matter how great the organisation’s technology or systems are; if they are not tailored to the employee then they simply won’t engage, and millions of dollars of investment can potentially go to waste.

“When the employee shows a decline in performance, this is perhaps the most obvious red flag. If an employee doesn’t plan on being with your organisation for much longer, then why give 100 percent?” he said.

Source: Deloitte
Source: Deloitte

According to the report by Deloitte, more than six in ten Millennials say their leadership skills are not being fully developed. Furthermore, Millennials believe businesses are not doing enough to bridge the gap to ensure a new generation of business leaders is created.

Jamie adds that traditional methods like one-on-one feedback, annual engagement surveys and email communications don’t necessarily go far enough in demonstrating the value to the employee.

“It’s also important to celebrate personal wins. People want to be acknowledged when they’ve accomplished something, no matter how small. After all, every tiny victory contributes to your success as a business. The future is even more social and much more connected than it is now, especially when it comes to employee engagement,” he said.

Large organisations like Qantas, UBER, Bupa, Staples, The Iconic and Domain are already on the REFFIND platform which might signal that they are already on the offensive to try and retain their Millennial workforce.

Work life balance is important to Millennials Source: Envato
Work life balance is important to Millennials
Source: Envato

Work work work work work

Unsurprisingly, the Millennial Survey report uncovered that when salary or other financial benefits are removed from the equation, work/life balance and opportunities to progress or take on leadership roles stand out. Those factors are followed by flexible working arrangements, deriving a sense of meaning, and training programs that support professional development. An employer that can offer these is likely to be more successful than its rivals in securing the talents of the Millennial generation.

Priorities for Millennials
Source: Deloitte

One Australian company that is spearheading the way forward in this regard is Envato. Based in Melbourne, it was named “one of 2015’s best places to work”. Envato offers flexible work arrangements, the ability to take up to three months to work and travel and many more perks.

Envato Founders, Collis and Cyan Ta'eed Source: Envato
Envato Founders, Collis and Cyan Ta’eed
Source: Envato

So far, it seems like a strong strategy to retain talent and nurture leaders. In an interview last year, Envato HR director James Law said “The Envato founders have spent a lot of energy building a business they themselves would like to work at, and we are striving to continue that focus as we grow.”

“Everyone at Envato plays a role in making Envato a great place to work. It’s a dedication to attracting and engaging great people that allows us provide those people with an environment they can be proud of.”

Like it or not, Millennials are going to be the backbone of the world economy within a decade and if there was ever a time to develop a strategy to attract, encourage and retain the leaders of tomorrow, now it that time. The truth is that if organisations however mighty, don’t Millennial-proof their HR strategy, they may face the same fate as Blockbuster, Kodak and the others whose only purpose is to serve as lessons to be learned.

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Journalist, editor and producer of content for newspapers, magazines and radio since 2004. Based in Melbourne Australia, shamelessly for the food, hipster culture and great stories.

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