Holding on to Your Millennial Talent


At wolf & heron, we create professional development programs for early- to mid-career professionals. This is not an accident. Like everything we do, it’s super intentional. Early- to mid-career professionals, (mostly millennials, at this point), are in the unique position of having more pluck than experience, but are actively seeking leadership opportunities and career advancement.

Think about some of those not-always-positive stereotypes of millennials:

  • They’re fickle and prone to job switching.
  • They want their job to mean something.
  • They desire leadership opportunities… if not now, then yesterday.

They’re asking for a lot, aren’t they? (In full disclosure, I’m a millennial). I see this attitude as the professional extension of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. As more becomes available in the workplace, we expect more. As if those expectations aren't met, we look elsewhere.

That said, the things organizations do to appease or empower their millennial employees will benefit folks throughout the organization; they’re good for everyone. Is it really a bad thing if an organization figures out how to infuse meaning and purpose into the jobs they offer? Is it really a bad thing if companies figure out how to be employers of choice as a way of retaining talent? Here’s what an organization should think about to be an employer millennials are interested in working for:

  • Develop Your Talent. Even if you think your talent might eventually leave you, if you don’t develop them, they definitely will. From a content perspective, focus on what matters most: their ability to be effective, purpose, and meaning regardless of their formal authority or experience level. Soft skills such as influence, communication, and relationship building will create a swath of entry level professionals that are driving your organization from the bottom up.
  • Create Leadership Opportunities. These don’t have to come in the form of titles or formal authority. Many people view leadership opportunities through a broader lens of new experiences, exposure to different parts of the organization, or higher-visibility challenges. There are many routes to satisfying this desire that don’t require a promotion.
  • Encourage Cross-Level Collaborations. Describing a group using a category stereotypes and distances people from each other. Organizations don’t need more “us vs. them” in their rhetoric. Create opportunities for individuals to connect and collaborate across levels and throughout the organization. The obvious siloes and cliques form in functions and business units but they can easily pop up in a way that differentiates the “old guard” from the “new guard,”... an unhealthy division for any organization.

What do you do to develop and retain your millennial employees?

-- Kara Davidson, Cofounder, wolf & heron