Sean Graber

The only safe thing that you can say about Millennials these days is that they’re controversial. To some, Millennials are saviors who are highly educated, entrepreneurial, and tech-savvy. To others, they’re a scourge of narcissists with unrealistic expectations and an attention-deficit problem.

No matter your opinion, the Millennials are here. This generation, which is comprised of individuals born after 1979, became the largest segment of the U.S. workforce in 2014. And they’re on pace to reach 75% of the workforce by 2025.

Their incorporation into the workforce (which has coincided with the retirement of Baby Boomers) has caused two big problems:

  • Leadership Gap – According to Deloitte’s Global Millennial Survey, Millennials are being forced into leadership positions before they’re ready. 41% of Millennials have 4 or more direct reports, and 64% of team leaders felt unprepared when assuming that leadership role.
  • High Turnover – Millennials remain in their jobs for an average of 3 years. When they leave, they cost companies an average of $25,000 per employee. Part of their flightiness is due to the fact that they’re younger, but it’s mostly due to the differences in how they think about their careers.

Wheel Of DeathIf you ask a Millennial, the answer to these problems is simple. All they want is alignment with their company’s mission, the ability to have a strategic impact, a career path that gives them the opportunity to work on interesting and varied projects, top-notch learning and development programs, a quick international rotation, flexible working arrangements, and programs that focus on philanthropy and environmental sustainability.

If you’ve got all of that covered, please stop reading now. (Also, please send me an email at if you’re hiring.) If you don’t, feel free to read on.

This Millennial “wish list” may be a quixotic fantasy, but it’s the main driver behind low levels of engagement and high turnover. If companies want to attract, engage, and retain top Millennial talent, they must understand (and provide) the types of experiences that these individuals are looking for.

One realistic solution to this problem is to provide discrete learning opportunities that incorporate items from the Millennials’ wish list. An excellent example of this is Deloitte’s D2i program, which enables junior employees to use paid time off (PTO) to work on a skills-based pro bono project. D2i recently partnered with an NGO in Guatemala to improve supply chain operations. Members of the project team had an unforgettable learning experience (that also happened to check the box on many items on their “wish list”).

Unfortunately, most companies choose not to offer these types of opportunities because they’ve fallen into the Millennial Wheel of Death. They see that their Millennials are disengaged and prone to high turnover, which leads to underinvestment, when then leads to further disengagement and even higher turnover.

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