Millennials have a reputation for being job hoppers. That reputation isn't entirely unearned: By some estimates, the average millennial job tenure is as low as two years, though other sources challenge this.
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But regardless of whether or not millennials really are frequent job hoppers, the fact remains that a lot of organizations have trouble convincing them to stick around. Millennial retention is a huge challenge for many employers.
Genevieve Carlton, talent management consultant at personality assessment purveyor Caliper, has heard from many clients who are having trouble in this department, and she thinks personality assessments can help.
"What's critical [for retaining talent] is knowing what motivates your workers, improving their fit to your organization, and allowing their strengths to shine so you're getting the most out of the people you're bringing on board," Carlton says – and these are all things that the right personality assessment can help you do.
That being said, Carlton stresses that millennials are a diverse population and that personality assessments are only a piece of the puzzle.
"There's no crystal ball," Carlton explains. "What you're really looking at [with a personality assessment] is what drives a single person."
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Still, she does have some general advice about how to boost your millennial retention rates – advice that's based on some of the data Caliper has collected from more than 3.5 million assessments conducted for more than 30,000 companies over the last 50 years.
1. Dig Deeper: Find the Motivation
Find their motivations, natural tendencies, and personalities. This is accomplished through the application of a valid and reliable personality assessment, which will allow you to build the solutions to reduce turnover, increase job satisfaction, improve alignment with career expectations, and increase effectiveness across multi-generational teams.
"Basically, when you look at what personality is, it's about what drives you," Carlton says.
It follows, then, that a good way to figure out what motivates your employees is to have them take personality assessments that will help you pinpoint their passions. Just make sure you're using the right kind of personality assessment. In Carlton's words, it should be "wide-ranging" enough to work for many different people from many different generations, and it shouldn't "put people in a box." Rather, it should maintain the nuance of each individual employee's personality.
"A lot of assessments out there are like Cosmopolitan magazine quizzes," Carlton jokes. "'If you answer 'A', you're this category. If 'B', you're this one.' A good personality assessment is a window into the person's drivers and motivators."
Related: Money Isn't the Most Important Thing for Working Millennials
Tests like the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, well useful in other situations, aren't quite right for when it comes to determining motivators. (Not that Carlton is opposed to the MBTI; in fact, she's certified in it.) You want to use an assessment that's a little more dynamic, something that will lead to a deeper conversation with an employee or potential hire about what they want out of their job.
"What you're seeing on the page is something that should be further elaborated upon," Carlton says. "My best clients are the ones that use the assessments to have better conversations and interviews to see how [an employee or candidate] will do at work based on their motivators."
2. Reduce Turnover: Improve Organizational Fit
The combination of a personality profile leveraged by people analytics can lead to four ways to reduce millennial turnover and improve long-term organizational fit.
One of the best ways to reduce turnover is to hire people who fit in with the organization's culture in the first place. If it's too late for that, you can also tweak an existing employee's job or career path to better suit their needs.
Carlton says there are four specific ways to improve organizational fit:
1. Improve Job Fit and Team Fit
This bit of advice is fairly self-explanatory: Get your employees in the right jobs and on the right teams based on their motivations and how those motivations align with the culture of the team.
It's important to note that many employers and team leaders don't actually have accurate pictures of their companies'/teams' cultures, which can lead to some accidentally ill-fitting placements.
"For example, if you're the founder of an entrepreneurial organization ... you may have this perception that you need to hire hard-charging, aggressive, driven people because that's who you hired early on," Carlton explains. "But your organization may have matured, and maybe now there's a new culture and different kinds of people are rewarded in your culture."
To make sure you have a handle on your organization or team's current culture, you may want to have existing employees take personality assessments. The results will give you a better idea of how your teams work and what the critical strengths and motivators are at your workplace.
And before they even make a hire, many employers set themselves up for job and team fit failure by using outmoded job descriptions.
"You may have an understanding of what a great customer service person was like five years ago, but the times are changing so rapidly," Carlton says. "What worked phenomenally back then might not fit what you need going forward."
Make sure your job descriptions aren't advertising to the wrong people – people who no longer fit the profile your job or team needs. Otherwise, you'll have nothing but poorly fitting candidates on your hands.
2. Give Employees Career Paths
A lot of workers want well-defined career paths, but millennials tend to be especially fond of them. In Carlton's opinion, that's because millennials have been goal-oriented since a very early age.
"We're talking about people who from a very young age have had a goal to work toward," Calrton says. "Their parents have been paying for college counseling, and even in high school they were focused on getting into certain colleges. They knew they needed to have all these credentials."
Just make sure the career paths you offer your millennial workers aren't too well-defined. That could backfire on you.
"To retain talent, you need to offer them a career path, but they don't want to be narrowly defined too soon," Carlton says. "That limits their options."
3. Set Up the Right Work Environment
The millennials are a varied generation, but one thing many of them agree on is the importance of flexibility and convenience.
And, Carlton says, a lot of baby boomers and Gen. X-ers share this emphasis.
"We're all getting that way," Carlton says. "Think about it: We can do all kinds of things electronically that we couldn't do even a couple years ago. It stands to reason that people want a work environment that is flexible and that minimizes the amount of time you have to spend on administrative things."
But as with company and team cultures, the problem is that many employers don't truly know what their work environments are like.
"I have clients that talk the talk, but when you talk to the people who actually work there, they say that they feel like they are chained to their desks," Carlton says.
Once again, employers need to take an objective look at their work environments and solicit the honest feedback of their employees if they want to offer millennials the kinds of environments that will convince them to stick around.
4. Align Your Management Style
This is an area where personality assessments can be particularly helpful.
"When you're looking to hire someone, you need to know if the type of management they need fits with how you manage," Carlton says.
Not everyone responds well to the same type of management style. Some employees thrive with independence, but others like managers who take the hands-on approach. Before hiring anyone or placing them on any team, you should make sure that the worker will do well with the manager who will be overseeing them. Otherwise, you have a serious flight risk on your hands.
3. Maximize Strengths: Autonomy Is Key
Be open to working virtually and giving them autonomy. This will allow millennials to maximize their strengths in ways that result in enhanced productivity. Give them opportunities to build meaningful relationships in the workplace. Give feedback often and provide individualized coaching and guidance.
Autonomy is all about striking the right balance. You can't let employees do whatever they want whenever they want, but you also don't want to micromanage them.
The key here is figuring out which roles autonomy works for and how much autonomy each role needs. For example, a content writer may not need to come into the office every day. Most of their time will be spent hunched over a keyboard anyway – so why not let them do it from home, where there are no distractions?
"A customer service rep, on the other hand, needs to be in a call center and follow well-established procedures," Carlton says. "There's going to be a lot less autonomy there."
And not everyone wants a lot of autonomy. What you want to do is match people with jobs that meet their desired levels of independence. Some of your employees will want to telecommute every day, while others would much rather come into the office and be surrounded by people. You can use a personality assessment to figure out what degree of autonomy each employee needs.
When it comes to retaining millennials – or any worker, really – there are a lot of moving parts. At the bottom of it all, however, is a simple principle: fit. If you get the right people into the right jobs and on the right teams, you'll have a much easier time keeping turnover low.