Listen Up Millennials!

Are you right out of college and still a little confused on how to navigate working in the government? Don’t worry, you’re not alone. Fortunately, those who have been in the workforce for a little longer than you have some tips and advice to offer to millennials adjusting to the workplace.

In order to share those tips, Joshua Marcuse, Senior Advisor for Policy Innovation, at the Department of Defense; Jon Clifton, a Managing Partner at the Gallup World Poll; Eric Koester, Co-Founder of Fast Rope Labs; and Anne Donovan, Innovation Leader for Human Capital at PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC) got together for a panel discussion, Workplace Lessons for Millennials,  at the Next Generation of Government Training Summit.

Transition from college to the workplace is often most challenging because workplaces aren’t catering to millennials. Recently, Gallup released a report profiling what millennials want out of the workplace. They produced this report because clients were confused why millennials weren’t staying and they wanted to develop best practices to attract and ultimately retain millennial talent.

“The most significant findings from the report is that only 29% of millennials in the United States are engaged in their work,” Clifton said. He continued to explain that what millennials want most out of the work place is the opportunity to learn and grow, quality managers, mission driven work, and the opportunity for advancement. From these findings, making the workplace more millennial friendly appears relatively straight forward. However, Clifton explained that most employers confuse the impact of satisfaction and engagement at work.

“Many employers are building strategies that satisfy millennials but don’t engage them,” Clifton continued. “This is problematic because engagement is the most important element to millennial retention.” He explained that the difference between satisfaction and engagement is that satisfaction is simply being happy at work while engagement is having the opportunity to do what you do best at your job. While some millennials are lucky enough to get both, if an employer is looking to retain talent and produce better outputs with millennial employees, they must engage those employees.

PWC is an example of a company that changed to better accommodate millennials. Donovan explained that PWC recently learned that millennials are the future of PWC, as the workforce there is 80% millennial. She continued that the problem at PWC was not engagement because generally PWC employees don’t question that they are doing important and meaningful work. “However, we needed to work on the satisfaction. We were so far from ping pong tables and volleyball courts that it was ridiculous,” Donovan emphasized.

While overall, engagement is the most important driver of retention, PWC was losing enough millennial talent to their lack of satisfaction that they had to make some changes. Donovan explained that PWC had to improve satisfaction because every time a millennial walked out the door, PWC lost around $100,000. Consequently, PWC conducted a study to see what they could do to retain millennial talent. The results of the study found that millennials want three main things: to work in teams, overall flexibility, and appreciation and support from management. According to the data, if these three elements are met, millennials are much more likely to stay.

Donovan emphasized that the data driven component is critical to effecting change in upper management.  She explained that, “when a young person tells someone in management how to treat young people, there is often a glazed over look that management gets.” As a result, millennials looking to effect change in their workplace must be able to get their managers on board. This is where the data comes in. Donovan underscored, “without the numbers to back it, behavior in management won’t change.”

But what if you want more and your company isn’t willing to budge? Koester explained that this is where starting your own business may come in. “We are currently in the era of entrepreneurship and people are drawn towards an innovative lifestyle,” Koester articulated. “As a result 70% of millennials say they are interested in launching their own company one day. This is compared to 40% of Americans who are interested in starting their own business and the 11% of individuals who actually do.” Koester advises that the disparity between those who desire to be entrepreneurs and those who actually are can be attributed to the decision to quit your current job. “If you want to start your own company, you need to quit your job now,” Koester emphasized.

Even if you’re not quite ready to actually quit your job, Koester emphasized that even thinking about it can make you more innovative at your current position. “Those who start thinking about leaving their current job to start their own company actually stay at their jobs three times longer and end up being 20% more productive,” Koester explained. Those who stay do so because employers began engaging employees that may leave. This gives them the tools to innovate in their current position so they don’t have to innovate on their own. “Smart companies empower employees and invest in the person rather than the position,” Koester concluded.

This blog post is a recap of a session that took place at the recent Next Generation of Government Summit. Want to see more great insights that came out of NextGen? Head here.

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Many Gov’t are moving toward an Agile Mindset. I believe this will advantageous to Millennials and the workplace because they work in teams, they are flexible and management can see progress daily. Time will tell.