Hi everyone! I’m coming to you from a cruising altitude of 36,000 feet – somewhere over Missouri if my bearings are anywhere accurate (or Missouruh if you’re from there) – on my way back from a speaking engagement in Michigan. I’m quickly learning that one of most glamourous part of this speaking gig is to get the opportunity to spend countless hours in airports! If you can’t read the sarcasm in the latter part of that sentence, we spent 2 hours tonight either waiting to pull back from the gate or waiting for our turn on the tarmac. I think the plane had a flat tire or a broken wing or something.
But I digress. Even though that part wasn’t ideal, I did manage to run into three separate people whom I’ve known but lost contact with over the years while running between gates at O’Hare. One was a co-worker from 8 years ago, and the other two were old college friends. It was fun catching up and hearing what they’re doing now, even if it was only for a few minutes.
Interestingly, all three of them had changed jobs within the last three years – not only jobs but companies. Two of them were in completely separate industries, while another was working for a competitor from their previous position.
I’m not going to say it surprised me. After all, all three were Millennials, which means they are inherently disloyal. As I’m sure you’ve read, my people hate everybody. But the key question is Why!? Why do we hate everyone else? That’s tough to answer – and the publications out there don’t make it much easier to understand. We either aren’t loyal because we want more money (Inc.), a more purposeful organization (Deloitte) or because we want to “date more” (Business Insider). And who can argue with that? I mean, haven’t we all dated a few companies only to scarf the entire tub of ice cream when we broke up? I know I did!
The #1 problem companies are facing today is trying to prepare for an extremely large workforce entering retirement and build up the group of next-generation leaders to carry these companies forward for the next 30 years. And anytime this conversation comes up, the topic of Millennials and their lack of loyalty towards employers always enters the conversation. But how can we realistically – and systematically – create an environment where all employees (not just Millennials) want to stay and help build the future? Here’s a few simple ideas to get started:
Partner, Ask and Listen
The key to this process starts with communication (surprise!!)
We talk to organizations every week about getting to know your employees as people. That’s leadership 101; it’s not rocket science. But a different way to frame this is to ask yourself if you (or you company) are treating people like a partner in the business. Are the employees you are trying to keep a partner in the process – or just someone filling a seat? Most companies have moved away from the kinds of guarantees that Baby Boomers grew up with – there are almost no pensions anymore, and many employees are now hired on a contract or temp-to-hire basis – and that can’t help but make Millennials feel less like people and more like pieces of your corporate machine. If you’re not doing something positive to counterbalance that undeniable negative, then you shouldn’t be surprised when your new hires leave for someone who promises a little more stability and security.
Here’s another one: are you empowering your people to own the success (and failures) your company’s experiences – or are you building silos between management and associates? What happens too easily in business is that we discount people, their ideas, or their value based on their title or specific role in the organization. Quite honestly, we take people for granted. But if you can tap into the concept of treating everyone like a partner in the outcome, they might help you figure out how to get there – and enjoy it enough along to way to stick around and see what happens in the end.
The second two concepts – Ask and Listen – go hand in hand. Ask for their opinions and ideas about how to tackle a new project or expand into a new market, and let them know you’re listening even when, as will often be the case, you will choose to go in a different direction. Ask what they want out of their career, then listen to the response while trying to remove any of your own feelings associated with it. It might be a different response than you think it should be, but that’s OK; after all, it’s going to be their journey to live. But I can guarantee you’ll build a stronger organizational culture if people of all generations feel as though you’re seeking input, asking questions, and genuinely listening to what they are saying.
If you remember Partner, Ask, and Listen, I promise the young people will come a long way towards becoming more loyal to your organization or team. And it may just help out the Gen Xers, Boomers, and your business along the way.