Generate Loyalty from Millennial Talent Through Bonding

By Roy Maurer Jun 2, 2015
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Turnover is one of the major HR problems employers deal with, especially now that the improved job market means that leverage in the employment relationship is shifting back to employees. Careers that lasted 20 to 30 years at one company were once a workplace norm. But modern day employees, especially Millennials—those born between 1980 and 2000—have become harder to retain. About 90 percent of Millennials, who are soon to make up the largest cohort in the American workforce, expect to stay in their current job fewer than three years, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

How can employers attract this generation, and once they do, keep them around and engaged?

Best-selling author, leadership and corporate culture strategist Dov Baron discussed with SHRM Online a novel method outlined in his latest book, Fiercely Loyal: How High Performing Companies Develop and Retain Top Talent.

Baron asserts that to keep top talent and generate loyalty in employees, leaders must maximize employee connections, learn to embrace vulnerability and cement the bonds that lay the groundwork for true loyalty.

SHRM Online: What should management know about the Millennial generation in order to gain their loyalty?

Baron: First, management has got to realize that Millennials are very different than Generation X or Baby Boomers. What that means is you can’t treat them in the same way that you treated older generations. Offering them the same things doesn’t work. They’re not looking for a 40-year career. The average job tenure for a Millennial worker is 1.2 years. One of their driving motivating forces is autonomy. They don’t care about the corner office, because they already have one—it’s called Starbucks. They want to work where and when they choose, on their laptop. So many Baby Boomer bosses are struggling, because they still push 9-5 schedules and working in the office. The older generations have been conditioned to think that work is about time spent. Millennials understand work as results. Generally speaking, Millennials believe in doing meaningful, purpose-driven work. In fact it is critical if you want to keep them around. There is real staying power for Millennials when they feel deeply connected to why they’re there. Simply put: Your organization must actually know its purpose and, just as importantly, be integral to it. This must be demonstrated not only in the way you do business but in every aspect of your corporate culture. If not, your top Millennial talent will not stick.

SHRM Online: How does vulnerability generate a loyal workforce?

Baron: We’ve been conditioned to think that vulnerability is showing weakness. It is not. Vulnerability is power. How do you get Millennials to trust management and leadership? You must create a bond by showing vulnerability and transparency. Transparency of the organization and also at a human level. I’ll give you an example: I do an exercise with leaders around the world. I ask them to take out a piece of paper and write down the name of their best friend. Then I ask them to write three or four bullet points on why the person is their best friend. On a separate piece of paper, I have them write down the name of someone who is only an acquaintance. Then they write three or four bullets on why they are just an acquaintance as opposed to a friend. When they’re finished, I ask them to look at the results and tell me what differentiates friends from acquaintances. The result is always the same: vulnerability. Your best friend is your best friend because you’ve shared things with them. They know things about you and you know things about them. There is a bond there. And if you want your top talent to be bonded with you and the organization, then you have to reveal to them and they must reveal to you.

SHRM Online: How do you go about doing that? Can you share one of your techniques?

Baron: Start with the leadership team. Gather them together in a conference room, and have the CEO begin by sharing something surface about himself or herself. And each person then goes around the room and does the same. Then in the second round, the CEO tells everybody in the room something that [he or she has] a fear of. It can be a fear of heights or a fear of spiders, or something they’re concerned about regarding the company. Then everybody around the room does the same. In the third round, each of these people must reveal a secret about themselves. Before they begin this exercise, I have the group write down the names of the others in the group and ask them to assign levels of trust they have in those colleagues on a scale of 1 to 10. After the exercise, I have them revisit their trust levels. And they’ve all gone up a few notches. They’re connected to each other because there’s reciprocal vulnerability. These techniques can be translated down to front-line managers through the HR department. HR is critical; if HR doesn’t move this forward, it doesn’t get moved forward.

Roy Maurer is an online editor/manager for SHRM. Follow him @SHRMRoy

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