Millennials and Gen Z are not typically known for their optimism, but for this cohort of workers their positivity surrounding work is in decline. The Deloitte Global Millennial Survey 2019 shows that most feel “uneasiness and pessimism” as they search for “safe havens” and “beacons of trust” within their careers. 

Small businesses, however, can take control and meet the needs of these younger professionals, especially since Millennials and Gen Z are deeply loyal to their employers. They often seek jobs surrounding issues that resonate with them, and will make up 75 percent of the workforce by 2025. 

The leaders and professionals who are willing to address their concerns can gain a significant edge in attracting and retaining top talent.

Coaching & Training

Career development and training is a huge focus for Millennials and Gen Z employees. While dissatisfaction with financial compensation is the most cited reason that younger workers want to change jobs, opportunities for learning, advancement and professional development follow closely behind. 

This is where companies who invest in their employees’ professional growth can stand out more than ever before. A 2018 LinkedIn report finds that 94 percent of employees want to stay longer at companies that invest in their career development. Companies who approach training as a serious opportunity for employee retention -- rather than an “extra” or “perk,” have the highest potential for improvements in employee retention. 

Amazon, for instance, is a huge investor in its employees. New hires undergo a month-long training and leadership program and the company pays 95 percent of tuition fees for employees to take classes as its fulfillment centers.

Of course, not all small businesses may be able to provide an offer like this. However, those companies merely need to find everyday opportunities for employee growth like mentoring and shadowing, stretch assignments or inviting input into the company’s organizational strategy. As long as companies offer Millennials these opportunities in a way that supports the employees without overworking them, both sides stand to benefit.

Use Business as a Force for Good

The same Deloitte Survey also found that Millennials are being more discerning in deciding which businesses are in line with their moral values and priorities. The latest report, for example, shows that those who see businesses having a positive impact on society decreased from over 70 percent a couple years ago to 61 percent last year and 55 percent this year. 

This is yet another opportunity for small business leaders to take charge. Because corporate social responsibility (CSR) requires leaders to actively engage in more than branding and public relations, they must also actively engage younger employees to pursue initiatives that make their companies better corporate citizens. They can do so by promoting CSR initiatives and events throughout its company culture. AppDynamics, for example, gives its employees five paid volunteer days off per year. Their community-focused program called AppD Cares encourages their employees to come together and give back in ways that are most meaningful to them.

Patagonia, known as one of the most socially responsible organizations in the world, also encourages its employees to volunteer through a handful of activities that support environmental advocacy work. The company sponsors programs that help preserve national parks, save wildlife and support communities impacted by climate change. These kinds of programs show Millennial employees that they’re working for a company that stays true to its ethos.

Companies that focus on “doing good” in addition to making money will increasingly be seen as highly desirable places to work as the value-driven Millennial and Gen Z generations represent a larger percentage of the working population. 

Smart business leaders will incorporate these values into a competitive advantage by remaining committed to developing opportunities for meaningful work and professional growth. Those that can align their company’s missions with social values that appeal to younger generations will find it much easier to keep those employees engaged for the long-term. Small business leaders that pay attention to the younger voices in their companies and communities stand to enjoy greater loyalty from employees and customers alike. 

About the Author(s)

 Jake   Croman

Jake Croman is an entrepreneur, philanthropist and college student who currently attends the University of Michigan. Jake Croman's networking experience and logistical know-how extends to his work fundraising on behalf of charitable organizations such as St Judes Children's Hospital and the Eddie Croman Foundation.

Entrepreneur and Philanthropist, Student University of Michigan
How Your Small Business Can Retain Millennials and Gen Z Employees