Don’t stop your employees from leaving

With Millenial’s currently the largest generation in the American workforce and growing as more graduates start their first job, it is increasingly important to have leadership that understands what it takes to lead them as employees. According to 2016, Deloitte Millenial Survey two-thirds of Millenials express a desire to leave their organization by 2020. With forty-four per cent indicating that they will leave their current employers in the next two years. This is a very real problem. If you need more stability and continuity from your Millennial workforce, you need to make sure that you meet their needs long before they even consider leaving.  Don’t stop your employees from leaving, rather give them a reason to stay.

What they are looking for most are strong leadership and a meaningful work environment. The traditional leadership and organizational models simply don’t meet their expectations. Unless you are ready for the mass exodus of your workforce, here are three things you as a leader can do to keep them from leaving.

1. Acknowledge and meet their needs

One of the biggest complaints from Millenials is that they feel they are being overlooked. Millennials, like most people, want to feel heard, they want a sense of accomplishment and they are impatient. They want to feel that they are contributing towards something bigger than themselves and they want to feel that they too are an important part of the organization, not simply a disposable resource that could easily be replaced by hundred others with the same skills.  They care about delivering results more than anything else, as, without visible results, they don’t see how what they are doing adds value.  And without adding value, they don’t feel that what they are doing has a purpose.

When a Millenial asks for a resource, it is because they want to deliver.  They know what they are struggling with to deliver, and they know best what they need to solve the problem. However, most people, not only Millenials, are not able to articulate their needs or the reasons behind their requests. While most managers are not willing to supply the requested resources without proper motivation. This causes an increasing gap between what they expect and what they receive. Once the gap is too big to cross, they most certainly will leave.

2. Trust they know best

To prevent the expectation gaps from growing too big, and to stop your employees from leaving, trust that they know best what they need to get the job done, and provide them with the resources they request, without them having to repeat themselves.

If you’re not convinced of the validity of the request, try asking “Show me why you need it? rather than “Tell me why you need it?”.  The simple change in vocabulary will allow them to express their need concretely, and not expect them to master a skill that they are simply not ready for yet while leaving room for possible misunderstanding.

3. Notice non-verbal communication

More than 80% of communication is non-verbal, yet in the workplace, the focus is often only on the spoken words. No employee ever resigns unexpectedly. It is rather their leader’s inability to read the subtle clues and warning signs that pre-empt the decision. It is their leader’s inability to proactively address issues.

When a Millenial resigns, it is too late and the best you can do is let them go with your blessing and an open door for when they want to return. Rather trying to stop them from leaving, give them a reason to stay before they start looking around for alternatives. Proactively look for the non-verbal cues such as coming in late, or being less involved than usual. Talk often and face-to-face.  Don’t wait for them to raise an issue, or worse, for a performance appraisal.

Connect with them personally and remind them that what they do matters. Pro-actively use these connection sessions to ask them what they need, understanding that leadership to them means enabling, not dictating.  Serving, not commanding.

4. Allow movement and growth

Movement is a sign of growth and vitality. A tree that doesn’t grow new branches or shed its leaves is a sign of declined growth. The same applies to the Millenial workforce.

Millennials see being employed in a company as a tool for learning and part of the education they need to fulfil their personal destinies. As soon as they’ve learned what they wanted to achieve, or when they feel they are not contributing to something meaningful, they will move on.  They don’t have the same loyalty as the generations before them simply because they want to be happy.  It might involve working at the same company for 20 years, but it might also be that they outgrow their environment and feel restricted from fulfilling their destiny.

To stop them from moving to other organizations, allow movement within the organization. Whether it is allowing them to try out a different role or becoming part of a different team, be sure to include their personal goals in career planning. Don’t expect them to fulfil generic job descriptions, rather create job descriptions around their skills and find the complementing resources to focus on delivering the project and not filling generic positions.

If you don’t allow them to move within the organization, they will look elsewhere and you risk losing not only the hands but also the intellectual property that goes with the hands.

Conclusion – Give them a reason to stay

The Millenial workforce values meaningful work and a sense of accomplishment more than anything else. If they don’t feel that what they do is aligned with their personal goals or that what they do matters, they will leave.

To stop them from leaving it is imperative that you as leader listen to their needs, communicate effectively and allow them to grow.

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With 20 years experience in the software development industry, Kate specializes in helping teams get unstuck, communicate and ultimately be more productive. She believes in efficiency through fun implementing lean, agile and playful design as tools for process improvement and organizational change. Her goal is to create more happy, healthy and whole workplaces where each person thrives and productivity soars.