J. R. Guillermo
Millennials and the Story of Work: How to Get Them to Stay
By now, the common refrain about millennials and their work habits center around their inability to settle down. In 2018, 21% of millennial workers changed jobs within the year, which is three times higher than the average outside the age group. 60% were open to taking on a new job. A 2015 study suggested that an average millennial will change jobs 20 times in the span of a career, far outstripping the average baby-boomer.
The millennial workforce emerged onto an economy undergoing great change. Big corporations purchase each other and merge. Startups rise and fall in larger numbers. The “company man” who spends his entire career in one company is gone. Guaranteed job tenure and stability largely evades them. It is adapt, or die.
So, millennials have adapted. The millennial workforce possesses unique skills. It is a generation that is mostly digital-native and believes in its own capacity for creativity. It is a generation that has access to an unthinkable amount of knowledge and has learned to live with it. By necessity, they’ve gained a knack for self-reinvention. They can be very versatile, and will add to their skillsets quickly when motivated. So, how do you motivate them to stay with your company?
Beyond the usual incentives, one way to keep your millennial workforce is by having, and maintaining, a compelling story. A good story captivates its audience, and can be used to motivate its audience. A good story that invites participation from its target audience can lay the groundwork for an identity, which is something profoundly attractive to the largely rootless millennials. What will keep them at their workplace, all other things being equal, is the story of their work.
Now, crafting this compelling corporate narrative requires a lot of careful thought and deliberation by the stakeholders involved. But as a general rule, here are three things your corporate narrative must have to appeal to your millennial workforce.
First is a heroic protagonist. The millennials have taken to scrutinizing product origins to new heights, from preferring eco-friendly bags to patronizing free-range eggs. They bring the same sort of sensibility to their career choices. They want to see the nobility they perceive in their choices reflected in their choice of career, especially if that career is to form a part of their identities.
Second is an idealistic goal. If NGO pay could sustain middle class lifestyles then a large portion of the millennial workforce would stick with them for their entire careers. Startups, in particular, are strong in this area as many are founded around such goals.
Third is a grand obstacle. From ending climate change to ending energy dependency, being able to mobilize against their perceived threats is appealing to your average millennial worker. If your company’s not story won’t feature any perceived modern evil to be overcome, the obstacles laid out within that story can be made to seem as such.
If your corporate narrative can make your millennial workforce see or feel even one of these elements, you have a good chance of keeping them onboard as your story continues to unfold.