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By 2020 millennials will make up half of the workforce – that’s no small feat. And while businesses are currently reaping the benefits of a fresh, young workforce, full to the brim with ideas and new ways of thinking, they’re also struggling to keep them happy and retain them in some instances.

A worsening skills shortage across a number of sectors means that millennials are very aware of how much businesses need them, and can therefore be much picker about the roles they accept – and indeed, have much more control over how long they stay in these roles. This is leading to a seismic shift in the workplace, which now looks a totally different place to what it did a few years back.

Changing views of the workplace

Millennials see the world of work differently to how their parents and grandparents did. This generation sees beyond the salary and the traditional 9 – 5 role. Instead, they expect access to flexible working as standard, and tend to prioritise a work/life balance as the main priority when they’re looking for a new career. If fact, it’s predicted that flexible working will be the main way of working for 70% of organisations by 2020.

In addition, young people are increasingly trying to find a purpose beyond financial success, and as a result, are usually much less loyal to one employer, continually on the lookout for their next role. And while there’s only so far employers can go when it comes to retaining staff with this mindset, there are a number of things they can do to keep millennials happy, and for longer.

Engaging millennials

Businesses should prioritise working out what millennials really want, and then devise an engagement strategy that encompasses this. While strategies should be tailored to each individual business, millennials do tend to have common general workplace preferences, despite the industry they’re working in, or their role.

In general, young people want to feel that they’re making a difference in their roles. Working in a role that lacks purpose, having little or no career progression, and undertaking monotonous tasks which lack creativity can be enough to drive your younger workforce away.

Culture also tends to play a much bigger part in selecting a role than it did in the baby boomer’s generation. A stagnant working culture, lack of access to flexible hours, and having no focus on social activities can be off-putting. Millennials also tend to prefer working in a flatter hierarchy, where they’re seen more as team players than simply a cog in a hierarchical machine.

And while few millennials would cite monetary benefits as the main deciding factor to them taking a job, it’s a given that they don’t respond well to being overworked and underpaid, so bosses shouldn’t simply ignore the financial side of things.

Getting it right from the start: prioritising the recruitment process

Starting from the beginning, during the recruitment process, can also have an impact on how millennials feel about your business and whether you even secure them in the first place.

Here, It’s important for businesses to understand that millennials were born into a digital world where they are used to receiving the information and services they need almost instantly. Lengthy recruitment processes just won’t cut it anymore.

Professional services firm KPMG recently asked 400 of its graduate applicants for feedback on its recruitment process, with the aim of evolving it based on this. Over a third of candidates stated they were frustrated that they’d had to wait too long to hear the outcome of an interview and with how long the process took overall. Over half of those that were unsuccessful were annoyed that they hadn’t received any feedback. This response has provided the firm with invaluable insights and left them able to adapt their recruitment processes accordingly. And other companies would be wise to follow suit.

Businesses must evolve or risk losing the best talent

Ultimately, as businesses continue to fight for talent and young people become increasingly integral to the workforce, organisations must realise that they can no longer rely on financial rewards alone. Millennials’ demands are much more complex than those of the baby boom generation, and much more driven towards non-monetary benefits. Those companies that revise their strategies accordingly, including the recruitment process, will be the ones able to secure and retain the best talent.

By Peter Cobley, managing director of Found Us.