Millennials. What do they want, and how do we keep them?

By Dr. Wanda Wallace


After a recent discussion with Alex Trahey, it inspired me to interview two millennials about what they want from their managers, and what keeps them in their team. It was surprisingly little!


Here’s what they said:

  1. Care about me as a whole person. That means, know and care about my interests outside of work. Other things in the world are interesting, not just my job.

  2. Care about my development, not just my output. That means have regular feedback conversations that are specific and not “lazy”. Year-end evaluations are useless because by year-end the company has moved on to new things and so have I.

  3. Understand the boundaries between work-life and life outside of work. Know when it’s ok for them to intersect and when it’s not ok. Be willing to talk about those boundaries and understand what makes me show up fresh everyday so I can give my best.

  4. Know what it takes to produce the work I produce for you and be willing to help. That doesn’t mean get in the weeds with me, nor does it mean you should tell me what to do. Also, experience is important, but age is not a good excuse. Just because I am younger than my manager doesn’t mean I don’t have expertise that my manager doesn’t have. If you don’t know how to do what I do, at least know that I do and listen.

  5. Be willing to break something to make it better. Just sticking with a process because that’s the way it has always been is frustrating. Explain why we do it one way. Be willing to hear a different approach. Explain why we are or are not changing.

Do millennials just want praise?

Everyone likes to get praised. We want constructive feedback so we can grow. However, praise is definitely better than “lazy feedback” (e.g., “be more strategic”). Constructive feedback (e.g., “In that presentation, you were not as high level as we would like you to be in describing the company.” ) is highly valued.


Are millennials willing to put in long hours?

Yes. But it can’t be a sprint all the time. We will sacrifice when it’s important just not constantly.


Do millennials know how to communicate?

Definitely, yes. Communicating and connecting, having a relationship matters a lot. The medium and the style for communicating is just different. Emotions matter, a lot!

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