By Stuart R. Levine

Published In, The Credit Union Times

“The Millennials are coming”, a cry we’ve been hearing for years, has finally come true. Recently, the number of Millennials in the labor market surpassed the other generations to become the single largest segment in the workforce. For years the “Boomers”, “Xers”, and “Ys” have been preparing for this take over — analyzing, and in some cases criticizing, every aspect of the new generation.

These 75.4 million individuals will represent over 40% of the nation’s workforce by the year 2020, and are currently occupying many middle and senior leadership positions across industries. Often seen by boomers as impatient for promotion, dependent on praise, shocked by criticism, and not prepared to make the effort required for career success, these 19-34 year olds are more often than not the product of boomer parents. Raised with 8th place trophies and multiple graduation ceremonies before they reach first grade, it’s no surprise they expect a corner office and six figure salary right out of college.

However, Millennials today are vital to the success of the organizations they work for. The diversity of thought and behavior that Millennials bring is, for the most part, a positive. They are regarded as the most educated generation and sophisticated consumers, and bring a natural acumen for technology and high moral and ethical standards. All of which are valuable traits in an employee. So what do they want in a work environment and how can we satisfy them?

A recent study by Deloitte University Press reported on the thoughts of 4,300 Millennials across 27 countries. They found that 25% of millennials plan to leave their current employer within a year, while 44% plan to leave within two years. This number jumps to 66% when asked if they planned on leaving their current employer by 2020. This absence of company loyalty creates a key problem for organizations that now rely on this generation as a major part of their workforce. The study also delved into why Millennials lack a significant level of loyalty, found in younger generations previously. The findings are not shocking, with Millennials having been raised with a consistent pressure to do better and achieve more. These workers find that their organizations are not doing enough to develop them. Although they may select a job based on financial benefits, they stay because of work life balance and the opportunity for growth and advancement. The Deloitte study reported that 63% of the respondents said that their “leadership skills are not being fully developed”, despite feeling that leadership skills are highly valued by their organizations. In fact, 71% reporting that they are likely to leave their company within the next two years, indicated they were are unhappy with how their leadership skills are being developed.

On a more positive note, Millennials feel that businesses today have more potential to “do good, and their success should be measured on metrics beyond financial performance. The resounding theme in this area is the feeling that companies that value and invest in their employees will be more successful in the long term. Those companies that focus solely on short term profits are more likely to lose these employees and fail in the longer term. Millennials also feel that an important area that businesses need to increase is their “sense of purpose” in addition to improving the skills, income, and satisfaction levels of employees. Millennials would place a much greater focus than current leaders on “employee growth and development”.

So how do companies satisfy and retain this vital and growing segment of the workforce? They need to bridge the gap between what Millennials want and what the company offers, thus increasing the loyalty factor. Companies need to identify and understand Millennial values, and then make sure they align with those values, while simultaneously attempting to satisfy their demands. But most importantly, companies need to support Millennials’ hunger for growth and development. The Deloitte study points to mentoring and the provision of developmental opportunities as successful strategies in this area. It goes without saying that Millennials who are most satisfied with the growth opportunities and professional development offered by their company are more likely to stay with that organization for the long term. Countless studies in the area of organization development have also shown a high correlation between the amount of investment organizations make in their workforce and the overall success of the company. So if you want to keep your brightest and best, and excel organizationally, invest in your employees.