Love us or hate us, we’re the largest generation to date, and we are job hunting. If you are unlike the many who are working to attract us as employees, here are five ways to craft the work environment that will lead us straight out the door, in order from least to most offensive.
5. Assume everyone under the age of 30 knows how (or wants) to run your social media and/or your office technology.
My right-out-of college coworker doesn’t understand Microsoft Outlook. Neither does one of my Boomer coworkers. A surefire way to run someone off is to think or say, “Oh, she’s young. She can help everyone out with Twitter!” Because we grew up with computers, we can pick up new programs faster than people who did not. But being familiar with computers and social media does not make someone a good writer, a good digital strategist or a good communicator.
4. Pay no attention to your online presence.
I don’t mean your social media channels. We know not everyone is great at social media. I mean company review sites, like Glassdoor. We do our research, and that includes potential employers. If your Glassdoor site is filled with negativity, we will find it. You could always claim your page and do things like actively ask outgoing employees to leave a review, but it might result in unwanted Millennial attention.
3. Invest in a pool table, a game room and other silly incentives instead of salaries.
Is anyone going to turn down free snacks, drinks, ping pong, or whatever else tech companies come up with as superficial incentives? Probably not. But the reason tech companies do this is because they’re competing for top-tier talent, and their salaries are already competitive.
When other companies do it, it’s a sign they’re compensating for something else that’s missing: generally, employee salaries or benefits. This might fool a fresh-out-of-college grad, but when I see a ping-pong table (or similar offering) at an association, I immediately think, “OK, what are they hiding? Who actually plays ping pong at work?” We most certainly prefer competitive salaries over lunchtime games.
2. Don’t invest in your employees’ benefits
Have you ever met someone working in the gig economy who LIKES the gig economy? To succeed in the gig economy, you must be far more dedicated, organized and self-motivated than 95 percent of your peers. Most people I know want a full-time, salaried position. We got into debt to get our degrees so we wouldn’t have to do shift-work like our parents.
And from totally anecdotal evidence, good benefits are one of the top reasons young people decide to work for associations.
So to keep those dang millennials away, don’t offer:
- Decent health insurance: A friend of mine pays $450 a month for healthcare through the Affordable Care Act because he works as a contractor. This is for a single, healthy, 30-something man, I might add.
- Paid vacation: Or if you do, make sure the employees can’t actually take it.
- Paid sick leave and bereavement leave: Nothing says, “We appreciate our employees” like forcing them to work after a family member dies! Nothing says, “We care about your well-being and the health of the coworkers around you” like expecting your employees to work while they’re sick.
- Retirement benefits: We love our 401(k)s.
- Education assistance: Warning: If you pay for someone to get their degree, and they agree to stick around for a certain number of years, in all likelihood, they will actually stay true to that promise!
1. Avoid hiring and training good managers, or investing in professional growth.
One of the reasons I love my current job: Whenever I hit a roadblock and can’t figure out the best way forward, I take it to my boss. If he thinks it’s over my head, he handles the problem. Or we come up with a solution together and I execute that solution. I feel like he has my back in all situations.
If you want to repel the millennials, stick a bad manager on them. Perhaps you’ve heard: “People leave managers, not jobs.”
Oops! A few too many good managers accidentally slipped in and your millennials are happy. Try these tactics then:
- Write unclear job descriptions. And make sure to avoid industry-appropriate titles. That is because titles matter to young people, as they will not work for one employer for their entire life. If you really want to get them going, use the word “awesome” or “rockstar” to describe a potential candidate. That’s because “rockstar” is code for, “We’re going to underpay you and then expect you to work 70 hours a week. You’ll need therapy after you rage-quit, which we will definitely not pay for. Awesome!”
- Do not offer management training.
- Make sure there is no career ladder for new employees.
- Do not offer professional development (or discourage them from using it).
- Do not take the time to establish your association’s culture. If it’s too late and you’ve already done that, you can solve the problem by hiring people who do not fit into it.
I was once interviewing at an association that had incredible benefits and good pay. In a short interview with a VP, she mentioned, “We’re not the kind of place that dresses up for Halloween and has parties,” and then sneered at me. I hadn’t asked about parties. Maybe I come off as the kind of person who loves work parties (I don’t), or maybe she assumed that because I was young I needed a Super Fun Office Environment (not really). Whatever her assumption, I knew I wouldn’t be a good fit because of the way she talked to me and because of her immediate assumptions about young people. I appreciate her comment, really, because it said a lot about the office environment.
Really, as a blanket rule, just make sure to avoid all forms of transparency.
At this point, perhaps you’re thinking, “This is how to repel any employee, no matter the age group.”
Yes. Yes, it is. That is because at the end of the day, we’re looking for similar things out of our jobs:
- A decent wage and benefits.
- Waking up and wanting to go to work (or at least not dreading it).
- A respectful boss and coworkers.
If you offer these things, you’ll start to see higher employee morale and lower turnover. The worst outcome of all, you may even be punished with an office that represents a wide mix of age groups!