After listening to Bruce speak, I think every HR department should listen to his talks and read his books. The most refreshing views on attracting, retaining, and motivating talented team members that I have heard in a long time.
Dough Haugh, President, Parkland USA

How to Retain the Very Best Millennials

Your best Millennials have the most options and are not about to accept less than they think they are worth. “I know what I can get out there, of course,” a Millennial told me. “We all do. If you care at all, you can find out what just about anyone makes. We all keep track of that stuff.” Remember that most Millennials have a high opinion of their worth. The winners know they are worth a winner’s lot. You might want to start negotiating with them before it’s too late.

Yes, some employees are more valuable than others—to you as a manager, to your team, and to the organization. I promise you Millennials know this as well, and the real winners know it best of all. Not everyone gets a trophy, but the winners will be expecting them—lots of them. And they’ll want valuable rewards to go along with those trophies. It follows that the more valuable the employee in question, the greater your retention efforts should be.

Make a point of talking regularly with your very best Millennials. Don’t just ask them, “Are you happy here?” Rather, talk to them regularly to find out what they really want or need—whether it’s a special deal or a small accommodation. Understanding an individual employee’s unique needs or wants is the key to being able to reward that person in a meaningful way. The more unusual the needs and wants of a particular employee, the more valuable it will be if you are able to meet those needs and wants, because it will be harder for other employers to replicate those rewards. If you can work out a special deal with a star Millennial to meet some unusual need or want that really matters to that person, you will have a powerful retention tool. Of course, you have to keep asking because their needs and wants are likely to change over time.

Whatever you are doing to be flexible and generous to retain your good employees, you need to be much more flexible and generous to keep your great employees. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • What are you paying your good employees? Pay your great ones more. Consider giving them more in base pay and benefits. Definitely give them more bonus money contingent on clear performance benchmarks tied directly to concrete actions they can control.
  • What kind of scheduling flexibility are you providing for your good employees? Give your great ones the best schedules, and give them more control over when they work.
  • How are your good employees assigned to work with vendors, customers, coworkers, subordinates, and managers? Give your great employees first choice in relationship opportunities at work.
  • How are tasks and responsibilities assigned to good employees? Give your great employees first choice. Give the great ones first choice on any special projects or choice assignments.
  • What training opportunities are being made available to good employees? Offer the best training resources to the best people first.
  • How are good employees assigned to work locations or work spaces? What about travel? Give the best people the first choice of location, work space, and travel.

Every Millennial wants a custom deal. The more you are able to customize for them, the longer you will keep them. But if your resources and your ability to customize are limited, you had better concentrate those resources on your very best people. That’s only fair. And it’s the only way you are going to retain the best Millennials for any reasonable duration of employment.

Providing more generous rewards and work conditions in order to reward and retain high performers is a growing workplace trend. Business leaders understand it because it dovetails with the strong trends toward employee ranking and pay for performance. What we’ve learned in our research is that providing differential rewards works only when managers do the hard work of shining that bright light of scrutiny on every employee. Every single employee needs to understand how and why she is earning her rewards and what she needs to do in order to earn more. That means defining expectations every step of the way and tying concrete rewards directly to the fulfillment of those expectations.

When your employees deliver on their commitments for you, you deliver on promised rewards for them. If they fail to meet commitments, you have to call them on that failure immediately and withhold the reward. When every person is managed this way, your employees are much less likely to wonder why another person is receiving special rewards. They all know that someone who is receiving some special reward must have earned it fair and square.

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