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Answer by Elijah Medge, millennial entrepreneur and manager, elijahmedge.com:
Here’s the short answer:
- An awesome work environment
- A reason to work hard every day—a big picture to work towards
- The opportunity to learn and grow daily
I am the owner of eight direct marketing firms and I employ dozens of millennials. As a millennial myself, I am well aware of the tendency of my generation to pick up and quit because the grass looks greener elsewhere. However, if you can create an opportunity for your people that is truly worth their while, you’ll find that it’s much easier to keep your awesome millennial employees around. I’m going to share a few tips that I’ve found to work very well.
Facilitate team bonding outside of the office. You’ll be surprised how far guacamole, chips, and a happy hour will get you. We millennials are social creatures, and we aren’t as inclined to separate “work” from “play” to the degree that our parents do. If you proactively create opportunities for your people to develop genuine relationships, you’ll notice that they actually look forward to coming to work each day.
Mix it up and have a little fun. A certain degree of consistency is important to run a smooth business, but if you look around your office and see people staring at the four walls of a cubicle all day long, you are doing something wrong. No millennial wants to come to work each day and be bored. Think about what the standard routine looks like and plan something completely different. Sometimes I walk into the room and start an impromptu game of officewide Pictionary. It’s important to keep your people laughing and having fun!
Take the time to coach, train, and develop successful mentalities. I’m the first to admit about my own generation that millennials are often seeking instant gratification or looking for the next best thing. But, just because we’re inclined to think this way doesn’t mean you should give up on us. It’s important to identify the reasons for which a millennial is looking to quit her job. For example, if she’s leaving because she’s outside of her comfort zone and feels stressed out, then this is an excellent coaching opportunity. You might need to get better at having some of the tougher conversations with your people. As a mentor, it’s important to coach your team on the value of seeing something through.
Offer awesome incentives. Even the most self-motivated go-getter millennial needs a reason to perform at her peak performance. As a manager, you must find ways to regularly incentivize your people. This might mean weekly bonuses for top performers or cool gifts when a goal is achieved. The best way to find out what your millennials want is to ask them! While at first it might hurt to spend the extra cash, you’ll be amazed at how much more you’ll get out of your people.
Encourage learning and mistakes. Remember, millennials are new to the business world, which means that rookie mistakes are inevitable. The worst environment you can create is one in which people are afraid to get their heads bitten off each time they make a mistake. To retain your millennials, you must facilitate opportunities for professional development and openly encourage your people to take on new roles. In doing so, the most important thing is that your people know that it’s OK to mess up. They need to know that mistakes are a natural part of the learning process and that you have their backs. As a manager, you must learn how to keep your cool and give constructive feedback when a mistake is made.
Don’t micromanage. The fastest way to scare away an independent-minded millennial is to micromanage him. Not to mention that micromanaging your people is a surefire way to encourage a bare-minimum mentality. Would you rather work with people who think like minimum-wage employees or CEOs? If you want your people to be able to think for themselves, you absolutely have to give them the freedom to succeed or fail on their own sometimes.
Consistently recognize top performers. Millennials love recognition! We’re human, after all. Taking the time to publicly recognize top performers will have three fantastic results: First, the individual being recognized will feel appreciated and special and will therefore be more motivated to continue doing a great job. Second, watching another be recognized usually inspires us to want to be recognized too. When we see a peer succeeding before we do, we immediately become curious about what they are doing differently. This curiosity leads to great conversations and coaching opportunities. Third, recognition lets people see the results of struggle and hard work. It’s important to show your people that they are not alone in the challenges they may be facing. If their peers can overcome obstacles, they can too.
Talk to your people about their goals. Especially with millennials, it’s important to have frequent and regularly scheduled conversations about goals. You need to know what motivates your team to work hard each day. If your goal is to retain millennial employees, find out what they want, and then make sure the company’s goals are aligned. This means not being afraid to ask your people for your feedback. Millennials need to fully buy into the company’s mission if they are going to stick around.
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