4 Ways to Retain Millennial Employees That Don’t Involve Free Food

October 12, 2016 by Meredith Brandt

It’s one thing to attract millennials to your organization, but it’s an entirely different thing to keep them coming back.


Many companies have focused on culture to get millennials engaged. But while Food Truck Friday and a fully stocked kitchen might draw people in, once the novelty of it all wears off, you’ll be left with unfulfilled and unengaged employees who will be off looking for whatever can offer them better. Don’t be so focused on creating a fun and flashy environment that you forget what millennials are really after: establishing and growing their emerging careers.

Look at Google, for instance. Google has the culture – the open office decor, the on-campus bowling alley, the nap pods. It has perks that would make even the most job-stable person start dreaming of working at such a place. However, what keeps people working there is far beyond the free food and the unique office quirks. It’s the people, the job, the work, the programs, and the opportunities.

Here are four ways to retain, not just attract, millennial employees:

  1. Provide mentorship opportunities

In the 2016 Deloitte Millennial Survey, it was found that those intending to stay with their organization for more than five years are twice as likely to have a mentor (68%), than not (32%). Mentorship is a key factor in letting millennial employees feel like their voices are being heard by one of their superiors while also providing the employee with someone who can support their career ambitions and professional development. By having a mentor, millennial employees can develop their leadership skills early on. Additionally, millennials will be able to see, through their mentor, what a long term career with a company looks like.

2. Surround them with great people

It may seem obvious, but the best way to create a great work environment is to fill it with exceptional people. When a team is cohesive, when its working towards the same goal, and when its made up of genuinely good people, people will stick in it for as long as they can. By being around smart, driven, and energized colleagues, employees, especially millennials or people still in early stages of their career, will learn through osmosis.

3. Instill a purpose

It is invaluable as an employee to feel like you’re a part of something bigger than yourself, to know your contribution to an end goal, and to feel your impact. By providing purposeful projects for millennials and setting goals with them, you’re instilling younger employees with a desire to accomplish. Millennials will have a mission, which will keep them coming back. At early stages in a career, one of the best ways to grow is to do. Don’t just keep millennial employees occupied; make their work actually be worthwhile.

Additionally, its important to take a look at how purpose and goals of the company are aligning with those of their millennial employees. The Deloitte study says, “Corporate values that are shared with and believed by Millennials also promote loyalty—particularly when employers demonstrate a strong sense of company purpose beyond financial success. “

4. Let them explore

Companies should be providing means of cross-departmental exploration for people at every stage of their career, but especially for those newer to the workforce. From a career goals standpoint, it makes sense: the only secure way to know what you want is to also know what you don’t want.

But also, from the personal development side of things, an employee’s understanding of perspective is key. If an employee is able to understand how a pipeline of works between departments, that makes a difference in their understanding of the company as a whole. Exploration allows for another way to expose millennials to new people and show them the variety of paths they can take within a company.

While fun office perks play a role in attracting new people to come to your company, if that’s all you’ve got going for you, you shouldn’t expect people to stick around for long. The best way to retain new employees, especially millennials, is less about keeping them engaged and more about allowing them to connect and grow with your company.

Meredith Brandt

Meredith Brandt

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