By Michael Watkins
After you learned about everything from her crossword puzzle addiction to her passion for wakeboarding, she finally said yes. In two weeks, you’ll be able to call her a member of your team. Underneath your excitement, however, you’re racked with anxiety. If there’s any truth to the articles you’ve read about retaining Millennials (roughly people born between 1982 and 2000), she could leave your company before the year ends.
Employee retention is a particularly frightening subject for your mortgage business. You invest a tremendous amount of time, energy, and resources to get a new employee to a point where they can contribute. If they leave within twelve months, there will absolutely be no return on that considerable investment.
A solution to the Millennial retention problem and profitable growth problem for a mortgage company is the implementation of an employee engagement strategy.
Why an employee engagement strategy?
Employee retention cannot be an afterthought. Implement an employee engagement strategy today if you hope to engage and retain the workforce that you hire tomorrow.
When disengaged employees are compared to engaged employees, the difference can make or break a company.
Engaged Employee Yield –
3X – growth in profits
2X – growth in customer loyalty
2X – growth in productivity
2X – less turnover
There have been numerous surveys conducted and research studies performed on the topic of retaining Millennials. Facebook’s tremendous amount of research on their employees has yielded three consistent things that are most important to their Millennials at work: meaning, flexibility, and challenge. Most other research includes those three elements and adds “stability” as a fourth. Accordingly, these four elements should be a part of a successful employee engagement strategy.
Millennials walk in the door with a dark cloud hanging over their heads. They are worried that, among other things, their jobs will be outsourced or replaced by a robot and other automation within the next five years. They tend to view a job as transient, and think it will lead to another job within a few months or even weeks.
A 2015-2016 report by Infosys and the Future Foundation found that startups have lost their luster for Millennials. The risk and excitement of the startup environment is no longer attractive, and millennials would prefer stable corporate jobs.
Mortgage company executives must come to grips with the fact that a three-to-four year “tour of duty” may be all that they can expect from their Millennial new hire, and the odds of retaining a Millennial for the “full tour” increase substantially when they receive training and development opportunities. The Infosys survey found that 80 percent of Millennials view training as incredibly important. They view their future at a company as wholly dependent on the skills they learn and the education available. If they are not constantly learning new skills, they will cut short their tour.
Closely tied to the need for constant training is an expectation of inclusion and the ability to provide feedback. Ask your Millennials what is important to them and you will gain real-time insight into issues like management, salary, benefits, and work-life balance.
A recent YPulse survey found that “76% of Millennials would rather have a career they are passionate about but doesn’t earn a lot of money than have a high earning career that they are not passionate about.”
This jives with my observations. Millennial employees want to understand their direct impact on the company’s success. If they don’t feel a personal connection to their work, they’ll see it as a temporary way to put food on the table and pay the rent while they look for something that’s more meaningful to them. If you’re frustrated by your Millennial employees putting in just what’s asked and no more, it may well be that they’re not seeing anything in the job or the company that inspires their best efforts.
Work individually with employees to craft a job that will deeply engage their interests and provide meaning. I’ve seen Millennials go from “not engaged” to “highly engaged” once they were paired with work that they were passionate about doing well. They want to understand what the company does, and to like and believe in its services or products.
I’ve heard it expressed this way: “you can think all you want that Millennials shouldn’t be obsessed with finding meaning in their work – but that won’t change the fact that they are obsessed about it.” Companies that acknowledge this and act accordingly will have the best chances at engaging and retaining employees across age brackets.
When it comes to work-life balance, few topics are more divisive than the issue of workplace flexibility. Workplace flexibility is the new normal in the U.S., especially when almost 40 percent of the US workforce works from home and 15 percent of these employees are working full-time, according to Gallup.
Modern technology allows employees to communicate remotely so team members can work together from different locations. Millennials have likely heard about companies that allow employees to negotiate their work hours as long they still finish all their work. If you aren’t one of those companies, you may fall behind.
Given the immense benefits of being able to cut down on commute time, tailoring work schedules and putting in more productive, more engaged hours on the job, it is critical for companies to fully embrace telecommuting and also offer up workplace flexibility if they want to retain their talent — especially female employees.
More Magazine asked women the following question in 2011: If you could have one of the following which would you pick?
- A promotion
- A raise
- Another week of vacation
- Flexibility in your day
The overwhelming response was flexibility during the day.
Seventy-five percent of college-educated women aged thirty-five to sixty would rather have more free time in their lives than make more money at their jobs. In fact, 40 percent would even take a pay cut for more flexibility.
Because they see work as an integral part of the life they’re trying to build for themselves, they — unlike previous generations — are largely unwilling to let the demands of work negatively impact the life they want. The same YPulse survey referenced earlier noted that “77% of millennials feel they can be more productive with flexible schedules and 84% are ‘always connected’ and continue to check their work email after leaving for the day. They want to be trusted to get the work done but they’ll do it when they feel the time is right.
Organizations that want to attract and keep the best Millennial and/or female workers, may have to re-think their policies about when and how work gets done. They must be willing to try out new approaches to getting the business results that the organization needs.
Boomers tend to complain that Millennials have unrealistic expectations about career progression. The fact of the matter is, Millennials are looking for challenge, and it is their manager’s job to help them understand what challenges are realistic for them to take on at their level. When a manager takes the time to define reasonable challenges for their Millennial team, they can take advantage of the fact that most Millennials are open to feedback — and they want it to be clear and specific.
When a Millennial says, “why can’t I get promoted now?” they really want to know. Tell them the specific ways in which they’ll need to do their current job better; help them create a plan to learn the new skills they’ll have to develop, and outline just what senior management will expect to see from them that they are not currently seeing. In most instances, they will be satisfied, and they’ll get to work on those things.
Millennials now make up 35 percent of the U.S. workforce, and are predicted to be close to 50 percent of the worldwide workforce in 10 years. Over the past decade, as they’ve moved into their working, buying, and household-forming years, Millennials have become a potent force in the marketplace.
To keep Millennial employees invested in your company, show them that you are investing in their future. Make sure they have a path and give them insight into how their role will evolve. If you’re a smaller mortgage company, perhaps you don’t necessarily know the exact appearance and direction of their path. But as their manager, you can show them the inherent advantages of a small company. Let them know that in a small company, they can often build out their own team, be a part of a fast-growing industry, and take on more responsibility early on.
A well-considered strategy that increases the engagement levels of the Millennial workforce will pay tremendous dividends across the enterprise for all generations. This is how a company can maximize the impact of their employees and experience extraordinary business results in the process.
Michael’s 30 year career spans a range of corporate, legal and entrepreneurial roles. Michael specializes in Operations Management, Management and Leadership Development and Organizational Design. He has designed, developed and delivered leadership seminars for Fortune 100 clients around the world. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.