What Do Millennials Want?


They want to be seen as holistic individuals, not just worker bees. 

No matter how you feel about millennials, those born between the early 1980s and early 2000s, you can’t avoid them. In Kenya, millennials make up more than 20 percent of the total population, according to the Population Reference Bureau. They are one of the largest generations in the workforce, and more of them are entering employment each year. By next year, millennials will make up 50% of global workers.

Many studies have been conducted about millennials in the workplace, with findings showing stark differences from previous generations. Millennials tend to change jobs regularly, value work-life balance, have higher expectations for salaries and benefits, and prioritise experiences and a sense of purpose over organisational loyalty.

What, then, can companies do to retain millennial talent? Keeping millennials engaged by appealing to their passions and interests is a key part of it. In Kenya, millennials began entering the workforce when economic opportunities were expanding, so they are more likely to value entrepreneurship and innovative approaches. More broadly, “they are primed to do well by doing good. Almost 70 percent say that giving back and being civically engaged are their highest priorities,” according to Inc. editor Leigh Buchanan in her book Meet the Millennials.

In a 2018 Millennial Survey, Deloitte found that millennials think companies focus too much on the financial bottom line and not enough on their impact on employees, the community, and the environment. Today’s young workers are drawn to organisations with a strong mission, flatter organisational structures, and a tangible social consciousness.

Millennials also expect workplaces to prioritise employees in ways that previous generations didn’t. Aside from generous compensation packages, they are looking for great experiences that can come from strong teams, innovative projects, and unique growth and development opportunities.

Having grown up in the age of interconnectivity and instant access to information, millennials are motivated by autonomy, feedback, and collaboration. They want to know how they’re doing and where they stand, and they want to know now. The more information you can provide to millennial employees, including about the organisation, their team, and their work, the more motivated they will be.

But don’t expect to retain millennials with impressive-sounding titles or the promise of promotions. Instead, they want challenging, engaging jobs that also offer work-life balance. They want flexibility in their schedule and how they work. They want to be seen as holistic people in the office, not just worker bees. The typical office layout of rows of cubicles, with little sense of community or personality? That alone could be enough to drive millennials away.

One policy that is of particular importance to millennials is the option to work remotely. Some won’t even consider a job without it. And when a company allows work location flexibility, these young workers will be significantly more loyal.

The bottom line: Millennials are very different from previous generations, and your recruitment and retention strategies should reflect that. What’s worked before may not work with this large and growing group of professionals. They can make tremendous contributions to your organisation, but you’ll need to adapt your culture and incentives to motivate them to stay.