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Attracting and Retaining Millennials

We hate to admit it, but Millennials are quickly claiming a large chunk of our workforce.  The multigenerational set of employees we have is challenging to say the least, and some say those pesky Millennials are the most difficult of the bunch.  We forget we all raised them that way...

Much conversation takes place at our forums on how to attract and retain this new enigmatic generation.  By now we realize that they aren't lazy; rather, they need to feel like they are making a difference in order to give their all to the job.  When motivated, they are willing to work hard and go beyond expectations to get the job done.  When marginalized by trivial tasks and no attention from senior management, they will wilt and decline to your expectations.

Employers everywhere are getting better at making the most out of their Millennials. Here are some of their practices.

Training programs. Many of our Mills join the bank as trainees or interns.  Typically their training program is cobbled together at the last minute on the Friday before they start.  Not enough thought is given to their attention span and need for personal growth and gratification. Take the time to make the program more rewarding, content-rich and full of excitement. Banking CAN be exciting if we let it be so. 

An excellent example of a credit-training program I recently came across is a 3 month long highly structured classroom learning experience focused on credit underwriting basics.  Following the classroom setting, the trainees move to the credit department where they work on real-life credits and workout  situations for a year, with monthly milestones to assess progress and verify goal achievement. 

Successful programs do not focus solely on education.  They also have a career path component to show the trainee what's in it for them and what they need to do to progress throughout the organization.

Staying too long in any specific position can be disheartening to the nanosecond generation.  Developing milestones to display progress as an integral part of the program is helpful, as is movement from one area to another.  Remember the timeframe our Millennials work within is different from ours.  There is no reason not to satisfy their need for advancement within our parameters.  Contrary to our bias they do not expect to be CEO within the month; they just want to see movement forward.

Don't forget that training is not just about acquiring skills; it is also about cultural immersion and creating a sense of belonging, which is particularly important to Millennials.  Incorporate the cultural element heavily into your training.  It will pay off.

Some banks offer retention bonuses to Millennials every six to twelve months.  Why not give our employees financial incentives to break the mold and stay within our organization if they deliver what we need from them?  This IMAP[LB2]  be unconventional but it is effective and economical, considering replacement costs of solid employees.

Education finance is another incentive that has special appeal to this generation[LB3]  that has been beleaguered with unprecedented student loan debt burdens.  Assistance with education costs in return for effective tenure is a fair exchange - so long as you serve the right to collect the remaining debt if the employee slacks off.

Matching Millennials with their areas of interest in another zero-cost method to retain them.  Giving them side exposure to the broad range of bank activities and then facilitating their focus where their interests lie will keep them at the bank longer and will increase productivity while they're there.  Doing what you like and what is interesting to you is far more engaging than drudgery.

Traditional bank hires called for background in finance or business. Today's Millennials might be more interested in liberal arts, and still can be committed to working in quantitative areas of the bank[LB4] .  Look for undergraduate majors outside the traditional range, and for GPAs below the usual 3.5 and above.

I've always been a huge fan of personality testing.  You can teach most people anything, but changing who you are is near mission impossible.  Spend your money wisely and hire only those folks whose personality fits your bank culture and job requirements.  There are numerous web-based tests that applicants can take before any interviewing takes place. Utilize them.  They work and are uncanny in their ability to "nail" an applicant - or an incumbent- personality to a tee. 

If you're looking for sales people, look for high extroversion, empathy, competitiveness, desire to achieve, a strong sense of urgency and, if possible, high attention to detail.  What a winning combination that is!

Millennials require intense communication, more so than previous generations.  It might have to do with the fact that their parents wanted to be their friends even when they were very young.  Regardless, be keenly aware of this preference. No news is NOT good news for a Millennial. It is frequently interpreted negatively. So do communicate very often, way beyond your comfort zone, and be present and sincere when you do.

Mentoring is another important tool to engage Millennials. Be intentional when you use this tool, as many folks don't like to mentor but accept the mantel as a necessary obligation. Yet others thrive on mentoring their juniors and get much gratification from the activity.  Select those who prefer to spend their time teaching and you'll give both mentor and mentee a positive experience.

One aspect to hiring Millenials is their lack of business writing abilities.  This is a gross generalization, but is sadly all too often true. One good solution for this is requiring a business-writing course.  Your employees will welcome the opportunity to acquire a new skill and your emails will become much more understandable.

Millennials live in communities, from Twitter and Instagram to Facebook.  They even date in groups vs. couples. Capitalize upon this community orientation by giving them communities to belong to.  Offer web-based communities for sharing and chatting on topics ranging from business to dog-walking; give Millennials tour of bank facilities, operation center, computer room etc.; offer volunteer activities, book clubs, committees for Millennials to belong to, attend, drive and benefit from. 

In general, being intentional about creating a sense of belonging for our Millennial employees is key. Help them feel like a part of the team, and give them the power to make decisions that can help the entire group, especially when it comes to their areas of expertise and comfort, such as communications and team building.

Millennials are as frustrated with us as we are with them.  Give them opportunities to share their frustrations and tell us how we can make our workplace more welcoming to them.  Gain generational insights from them.  We can all learn from each other, especially on this topic. Also, consider changing your workspace to present a more modern and fresh environment. Numerous banks are taking a page from Silicon Valley giants such as Yahoo and Twitter to change their physical space to a brighter, more colorful, less personal space environment.  While older employees abhor the lack of personal offices and privacy, younger ones appreciate the openness and more egalitarian environment.

Another coveted benefit by millennials is flexibility in working hours.  They like the control they could have over their life, and are willing to invest the time to pay back for that benefit.  One of our employees loves surfing, so he typically would start work very early and be off to the beach by 4pm.  He worked even harder to retain this perk. Put in place the monitoring tools needed to ensure you get the working hours you contracted for, but use this benefit to motivate and retain employees.  Metrics are a great facilitator of such freedom[LB5] .

Much has been said about exposure to executive management.  I agree it is very important, and believe it is as important to the executives as it is to the Millennials. Too many of us do not get sufficient exposure to this generation, and we need to understand them better to run our banks well, for aspects ranging from product development to channel utilization.  Both sides benefit from the interaction, not just those Millennials...

In summary, Millennials are here to stay.  We need to get better at integrating and rooting them into our banks.  To do so, focus on he following:

  • Feedback frequency
  • Recognition all forms, monetary and otherwise, public and private
  • Help your Millennials feel like they matter
  • Give them the opportunity to make a meaningful contributions the organization, environment, customers etc.
  • Offer special projects to enhance and broaden their experience, including work on acquisition opportunities

Millennials are like the rest of us, only younger.  They want to have both their hearts and minds engaged.  They deserve that from their workplace, and we should find ways to give them what they need from us.

New in the Nest:

FOOD NOTES

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