Developing millennial employees

A company that helps them toward their professional goals gains trust and loyalty

Recruiting and replacing employees is expensive. A less expensive and more rewarding outcome to the employee is development.
One of my previous articles touched on the steps a company can take to recruit and retain millennials. An integral part of the recruiting and retention is individual development and the feeling that we’re growing both personally and professionally.

Professionally, we want conviction that the skills we’re developing have value to the company but also as a part of our broader personal career goals. A company that helps us toward our professional goals gains our trust and loyalty.
From a personal development perspective, the path is unique for each individual and can range from social connection to getting purpose and meaning from our jobs. Overall, though, in many cases fostering personal development breeds professional achievement and satisfaction.

Managing across these two dimensions for employers is a challenge, especially when taking into account the individual nature of goals and work styles. That said, broader themes emerge when it comes to the development conversation for millennials.
Professionally, to develop a millennial employee, three steps can be taken:
 • Include us in the conversation: What we lack in experience we try to make up for in enthusiasm and flexibility. Exposure to conversations that influence the company or department’s direction or strategy helps us understand how decisions are made. This, in turn, enables us to consider how we would approach the situation, see the final result and iteratively develop critical thinking skills, all before we put them into practice in a management setting.

 • Give us a voice: Building on the prior point, there’s much that we don’t know, but there’s still valuable knowledge that we can bring to the table. While we may not have a complete solution to a problem, we can often offer a fresh perspective that can lead the team in a new direction. Knowledge that our perspective is listened to is validation that we’re respected team members and, in the future, when our knowledge is more valuable and relevant, we’ll be ready.

 • Encourage hands-on learning: A supportive team environment is a critical part of employee development. Diverse backgrounds and skill sets on a team is a strong start, but people that are willing and able to share that knowledge with others and walk them through a task diversifies skill sets and enables continuous growth through a learning environment.

Here are two more steps that can aid in personal development while at the same time positively impacting professional development:

 • Trust us to do the right thing: Trusting us to do our job, and to do it well, conveys that there is confidence in us as individuals. Confidence as an individual is a first step toward preparing toward being an effective leader and manager. As a company demonstrates trust, millennials will reciprocate that trust. Over time, this can contribute to increased retention and satisfaction.

 • Strive to provide a quality of life: When possible, millennials appreciate being judged on the quality of work rather than quantity of hours at a desk. Remote working capabilities and constant email access, which have blurred the work-life boundaries, can open the possibility to pursue our personal hobbies and interests while not falling behind on work. A well-rounded employee who is experiencing satisfaction in multiple facets of life is unlikely to look for employment elsewhere.

Our expectations of what we look to get out of a company and job — beyond a paycheck — is shaping how job decisions are made, longevity of tenure and our career vision.

In a tight statewide labor market, development can serve as the backbone to medium-long term planning. Development can take many forms, and the above points are intended to serve as a guide for working with millennials to keep them excited and growing within a company.

Jordan Bean, a senior associate at Stax Inc. in Boston, can be reached at

Categories: Business Advice, Workplace Advice