by Mike Morrow

7 tips for engaging millennials in tech companies

May 02, 2017

Technology companies are infamous for high turnover and rapid burnout. Why is this, and how can senior leaders navigate a rapidly evolving talent market?rnrn

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As the technology industry reaches a golden age of maturing powerhouses and disruptive start-ups, the demand for talent has increased. Universities, bootcamps and training programs have spent decades catching up with talent demands, and those returns on education are coming to fruition. An entire workforce of millennials has grown up with the internet as central and ubiquitous, so it’s no surprise a 2016 PayScale report indicated nearly 40 percent of tech companies surveyed had a median employee age of 30 or younger. The industry’s approach to talent management must adapt accordingly.

While famous for high compensation, generous benefits and eccentric perks, the technology sector has seen record low tenure rates. With new ideas and new talent come enhanced capacity to innovate. On the flipside, the “churn and burn” can cause workplaces to become harsh or toxic as employees bounce around.

If that’s the kind of company and culture you want at your firm, that’s your prerogative. For those that aim to build a company that retains its best talent, how can leaders attract and keep their best employees?

First, it’s important to consider who your employees are. As the millennial workforce grows, its demographic personality will spread accordingly. Media outlets like CNBC, Forbes, Time Magazine and others have labeled them with words like entitled, fragile, lazy, narcissistic and social media addicts. For senior leaders, it’s imperative to understand a diverse staff of Baby Boomers, Gen Xers and their younger upstarts. The perplexing high compensation and high turnover rate require a deeper examination of the employees themselves.

[Related:–>5 tips to better understand millennial managers]

In the technology industry, as with most industries in general, the problem is rarely compensation. It’s lack of engagement. A Gallup study agrees, showing only 29 percent of millennials are engaged at work, while 16 percent are actively disengaged. What does that say about the remaining 55 percent? When people aren’t engaged, they demonstrate this by quickly leaving for another company.

What can business leaders do to ensure millennials are more actively engaged, contribute more to the organization, and ultimately stick around longer?

1. Focus on the individual – Rather than lump millennials into a stereotype of difficult upstarts, work to understand the individual employee, their goals, values, motivators, and career aspirations. Provide challenging projects that align with those goals and values, and watch millennials take them and run.

2. Foster a collaborative culture – Millennials routinely rank corporate culture as a major factor in their engagement. They want to work across teams and departments, so cultivate and encourage this collaboration and cross-functional development opportunities.

3. Share the big picture – Employees value understanding how their own role fits into the vision and mission of the company. If they can’t see this connection, many will feel their roles lack the impact they seek. Help employees understand the strategic direction of the company, what that brand promises to customers, and the part they play in delivering on that promise.

4. Give back – Influencing and improving “good causes” is important to millennials, and they see their work as an opportunity to contribute to these causes. If a company can somehow support those efforts, either through demonstrating the company’s business influence on those causes or through side opportunities to contribute, millennials will feel more connected to their company.  One of my clients sponsors a race team to run a marathon, half-marathon or 5K to benefit a good cause.

5. Be open and honest – It turns out, millennials appreciate “plain talk” as much as their predecessors. They respond to the passion of leaders, and identify with those who are concerned with not having employees left out or isolated. Consider how you run meetings and be as transparent and inclusive as possible, whenever possible.

[Related: –>Millennial CIO explores augmented reality, intelligent assistants]

6. Be flexible – Many millennials appreciate the stability that comes with working full-time. However, millennials still value flexibility when it comes to working arrangements, believing it leads to better work-life balance, healthier minds and bodies, and optimal performance. Gone are the days of desktops and cubicles – today it’s all about connected devices and mobility.

7. Embrace short tenures – Many millennials don’t remember a world without LinkedIn, which allows them to observe the careers of others in ways past generations never could. This alone will encourage job hopping and short tenures. If you create a work environment where you get the best three to five years out of a young employee, assume they will inevitably move on. And let them! It will help your company by allowing new people to flow in, emerging leaders to move up, and expansion of your personal, professional, and company network as past employees branch out. Many of the best may just gain valuable experience and perspectives to someday bring back to your organization.