Much has been written about workers born between 1980 and 2000, these Millennials who seem to require ping-pong tables, beer kegs and pajama Fridays in order to stick around a workplace. But research reveals what really appeals to this generation of tech-savvy, quick-learning employees, and it shows that even a small business can compete when it comes to attracting and keeping the best young talent.
Here are some things you can do to spur greater interest among Millennials at your small business:
1. Provide career development
A Millennial Branding survey finds that more than 60% of these young workers are interested in starting their own companies at some point. Small businesses often provide many more opportunities to young workers, which can hold great appeal to those who want to learn the ropes before striking out on their own. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that those age 25-34 only put in about three years before moving on to a new company. A small business can ensure young workers stay put that long—or even longer—by offering to teach them much of what they want to know.
2. Offer flexibility
An Ernst & Young survey finds that lack of workplace flexibility is the top reason Millennials leave their jobs. With their 24/7 connectivity through smartphones, laptops and social media, this generation is used to gathering information independently and mixing their personal and work time. With such skills, they believe they don't need to be warming an office chair all the time if they can get work done from elsewhere, whether it's a coffee shop down the street or their own homes. Employers who understand that and focus more on the work a Millennial gets done—rather than how it gets done—will reap the rewards of a more productive, motivated worker.
3. Match them with mentors
A study published in the Harvard Business Review discovered that Millennials desire a constant stream of feedback but not in unreasonable amounts, as is often reported. One of the easiest ways to do this in a small company is to offer reverse mentoring. For example, you can pair a Millennial with another employee who wants to become more savvy about social media. This provides a chance for your more experienced worker to gain a new skill, while giving your young worker a chance to learn skills from a more experienced employee.
4. Do some good
Millennials are a generation that grew up doing good works. Many of their schools or religious organizations required it, and it's now part of their lives. Small employers can let Millennials plan and participate in community events and gain the added benefit of fostering goodwill with employees and the community. By being open to their ideas, you boost engagement and help forge greater loyalty to your company.
5. Make it fun
According to research conducted by PGI, 88% of Millennials want a fun and social work environment. While you may not want to throw a kegger every afternoon, that doesn't mean you can't have potluck lunches or let employees dress up for Halloween. Ask for their suggestions. You may find their sense of fun and enthusiasm generates creativity and goodwill among the entire team.
6. Be transparent
As a small business owner, you're probably used to making all the decisions and then moving forward without much input. But Millennials have grown up in a world where information is always available, and they don't like being uninformed. That means they want to know what's going on—in the industry and in the business—so they can make smarter decisions.
If you want to hang on to your young talent, help them grow, create, collaborate and have fun. It could be that those things will help you hang on to all of your employees longer.
Freelance writer specializing in workplace issues. She is the author of two career advice books and has been quoted in O, The Oprah Magazine, Glamour and BusinessWeek.