Career

5 Things Businesses Can Do to Stop Their Millennial Employees From Jumping Ship

Joanne Poh

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It seems there’s a bit of a disconnect between old-school Singaporean towkay bosses and the fickle, capricious millennials of today. As the story goes, the towkays can’t understand why millennials can’t just shut up and put in the hours the way their older employees have been doing for years. The millennials, on the other hand, take advantage of the robust employment market to merrily job hop the moment something goes wrong in their jobs.

No matter what you think of either group of people, this is a situation that’s hurting companies’ productivity immeasurably. If your business is now reliant on a bunch of spoiled millennials but you have no idea how to stop them from quitting, here are some tips.

 

Promote flexibility

Sure, in many companies, flexible arrangements already exist in theory for the benefit of working mothers, even if many don’t dare to make use of them. But businesses who don’t make a genuine effort to try to accommodate millennials’ need for flexibility can find themselves scrambling to replace their hires every year.

Thanks to the internet, employees today are pretty much connected round the clock. Bosses who think nothing of shooting emails to their employees late at night or expect them to be at the office till all hours during crunch-time would do well to embrace a more flexible approach.

If you’re not going to let your young employees come in even a minute later than 9am but expect them to respond to after-hours requests or go the extra mile, don’t be surprised if they leave.

At one of my previous companies, employees often stayed at the office well after closing time. When the company started picking on (non client-facing) employees for coming in 15 minutes late after having stayed in the office in the dead of night the previous evening, company morale took a huge hit and lots of people left.

 

Act like you care about their career progression

Like it or not, millennials don’t want to see their job as nothing more than a way to put food on the table. I think young people today are more and more cognisant of the fact that they need to progress in their careers to survive in Singapore and to achieve career satisfaction.

Thus, bosses that don’t seem to care about how their subordinates can progress in their careers are unlikely to be able to retain talent, especially as lack of career growth opportunities is a huge reason Singaporean employees quit their jobs.

That means one-on-one feedback and sitting down with each employee to map out possibilities for the future is crucial. Make your young employees feel like they’re just there to do sai kang with no hope of advancement or recognition and you can be sure they’ll leave the minute they find something better.

In the same vein, employees who don’t perform should be taken to task about their inability to deliver, and help should be given to them if need be.

 

Focus on employees’ performance and skills

The ideal employee of the past might have been the guy who was seated at his desk from early in the morning to late at night, obediently and silently carrying out orders.

But fewer millennial employees are willing to plug away or “show face” for the sake of it. Those who care about their careers want feedback on their skills, and they want to be recognised for the work they do, not the number of hours they spend wayanging at their desks.

It is thus important for the employers of today to offer feedback on skills, and acknowledge and offer advice on work that has been completed. Millennials are used to instant gratification thanks to the internet, and they don’t want to have to sit through 5 years of stagnant pay to discover what they’ve been doing wrong at work.

 

Don’t harp on appearances too much

One of the present day workforce’s biggest gripes is the fact that old school Singaporean bosses are very hung-up on appearances, which is particularly evident when it comes to the whole insistence on “face time”.

I don’t think it’s wrong to say that many young people want to be judged based on their work, and not on how many hours they spend at the office. The latter is one of the biggest inefficiencies in the Singaporean workplace, and just because your other business-owning friends are doing it doesn’t mean that leading in that way will be beneficial for your company.

Your best approach is to assess employees based on their work alone—if they don’t perform well, let them go, but don’t penalise those who are otherwise good workers but don’t look like the ideal obedient employees in your eyes. You’re hiring people, not robots.

Unless your millennial employees are in a super corporate environment where everyone walks around in suits and ties or are in the customer service line, it’s good idea not to harp too much on physical appearance either, as such an attitude is often seen as restrictive and too “old-school”.

Let your employees be themselves, and in the event that their appearance is affecting their work, tell them in a way that’s not personal.

 

Know what your company stands for

Your baby boomer employees might have been very happy just receiving a steady paycheck and not really bothered about what your company “stands for” or its values.

But as a recent survey found, millennials are becoming increasingly concerned about working for companies whose values are aligned with their own—companies that are serious about upholding CSR instead of just paying lip service to the authorities, and who treat their employees with respect.

That means that treating acting like the only reason your company exists is to fleece customers is a big no-no. You might get a few low-hanging-fruit type millennial hires, but it’s going to be exceedingly difficult to keep then for the long term if they don’t feel fulfilled.

Sure, you might roll your eyes at them for being too idealistic. But you’ve got a business to run, and updating your company’s vision might be the only way to keep it going in the future.

Do you work with millennials? Share your experiences in the comments!

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Joanne Poh

In my previous life, I was a property lawyer who spent most of my time struggling to get out of bed or stuck in peak hour traffic. These days, as a freelance commercial writer, I work in bed, on the beach, in parks and at cafes, all while being really frugal. I like helping other people save money so they can stop living lives they don't like.