How important are Millennials to the future of your organization?

Would it surprise you to learn that “During the next year, if given the choice, one in four Millennials would quit his or her current employer to join a new organization or to do something different?”  This according to the 2016 Deloitte Millennial Survey.  Further, the survey points out that within two years, 44% will leave their current employer, and by the end of 2020, almost 66% of those millennials will have left their current employer.

So who are those Millennials that Deloitte surveyed, and why is this important?  Various research groups have been attaching labels to people born in generations that followed World War II, Baby Boomers, Generation X, Generation Y (or Millennials), etc.  The Millennial  generation was born roughly between 1980 and 1995, or in other words, are between 21 and 35 years old.

The 7,700 Millennials that were surveyed by Deloitte were from 29 different countries, have a college or university degree, and are employed full time, mostly by companies of more than 100 employees.  In other words, they are young professionals who are the future of business organizations around the world.  Many of those surveyed were already in senior management positions in their organizations.

So, how can organizations deal with this “loyalty challenge” that is reflected in the retention projections among those surveyed?  The top priority listed by Millennials is salary and benefits, according to the survey.  But most companies do not have the ability to keep throwing money at their Millennials to keep them engaged, so its important to look at what the Millennials identified as their top concerns when financial factors are removed from the equation.  Good work-life balance, and opportunities to progress and take on more of a leadership role were identified as the next most important factors in staying with their current employer.

Leadership training and professional development within organizations is something I have a keen interest in.  As many readers may know, I spent the first 28 years of my 45 year working career in the United States Air Force.  The U.S. military services do an excellent job of not only providing leadership opportunities to their personnel, but in providing formal leadership development training as well. This is absolutely essential for succession planing and for continuity of the mission, should something unfortunate happen that takes the top leadership out of the picture.

All organizations need to look beyond the status quo of today, and look to the future.  “Who will be the next leader when I’m not around?”  “Who is equipped to take my place?”  If lack of meaningful leadership opportunities, or a career path that provides professional growth is a top reason that Millennials will leave their current employers over the next few years, is it not a good idea to look at how the organization can provide for those needs for the individuals, while also looking out for the needs of the organization?  And, we cannot just limit the topic leadership development and professional growth as applicable only to Millennials.   Business owners, Executive Directors, CEOs and all senior leaders should assess where they see their organization in the next 3 – 5 years, and identify how their leaders of tomorrow will acquire the skills they will need to perform in those roles.

It is not just about sending up and coming leaders to a couple one-day seminars, or bringing in a keynote speaker at an annual event.  But rather, organizations should also provide an on-going mentoring program to supplement any external leadership development training.  Employees who have mentors that provide good advice, and actually care about their personal development are far more likely to stay with the company than those without mentors.