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Sep 1, 2016
This article is part of a series called How-Tos.

Like any generation, millennials do a lot that give HR teams pause. Gen X was difficult to manage and motivate, and had different perspectives on work and work/life balance than previous generations. There are skill gaps between new young hires and many Baby Boomers now, namely in the technology arena. And, beyond that, more than two in four don’t have any plans to retire. Now we’re staring down the millennial generation, a massive demographic that at present is the largest piece of the U.S. workforce.

I’m not talking about the millennial stereotypes or pop culture chatter, either — there are just as many lazy, entitled millennials as there are hard-working, game-changing, head-down leaders and doers in the 18–34 set.

What is shaking up talent management is that these young hires are a bit like free agents, especially in the tech world. They come, they work, they hang on for a year or two and, just like that, they move on to explore other opportunities. According to the “Work In Progress” study we conducted to glean more insight into the future of work, millenials are the most likely age group to leave their job if given the opportunity.

There’s no love lost on their part because, to them, it’s their career, their journey and their deep desire to evolve and grow. If they don’t feel fulfilled or if they think they could be more fulfilled elsewhere, that’s where they’ll head.

It’s not a condemnation, simply the way they’re doing business and, more specifically, the way we need to do business to recruit, train, manage, and retain this powerhouse generation.

To boost your millennial hiring process, increase retention, and create a culture that’s primed for success, start with the data. Not only does tapping into critical talent metrics help paint a clearer picture of your millennial workforce — and your workforce in general — but it also enables you to use the power of personalization and talent optimization to give your employees more of what they crave: relevant experiences, opportunities, and support so they can feel greater satisfaction and, ultimately, reach their full potential … with your organization.

Understanding Motivations

It all starts with understanding the motivations of your younger employee base –and that’s not a time to go with your gut. Being data-driven keeps you from falling into the trap of “millennials like this,” or “millennials don’t respond to that.” The best place to start is by tapping into successful staffers in the sub-35 age range. Focus in on those who possess the track records you’re looking for in future hires. Maybe it’s longevity or a desire to grow within the organization. Maybe it’s someone who’s on a management track. Maybe it’s simply someone who’s lent tremendous value to the organization, regardless of his history.

Once you’ve identified your success metrics, start collecting qualitative data. What makes them tick? What keeps them motivated? What would they like to see? This generation tends to value company attributes and benefits much differently from the way older workers do. A recent PwC survey found that many millennials would opt for a flexible, personalized schedule over a pay increase or promotion, for example. Additionally, according to our study, 81 percent of millennials say “state of the art technology” is important to creating their ideal workplace — more than onsite amenities and beautiful office design.

That’s not to say you can or should honor every wish and whim, but it does give you a chance to construct a data-driven model of a potentially successful millennial hire. What’s more, understanding the hits and misses for these key candidates will help you bring vital info, access and add-ons to the forefront, putting your organization in the best, most millennial-friendly light. It’s not catering to this generation but, instead, understanding how to best frame your company and its open opportunities to engage these candidates.

Predicting Attrition

In that vein, take a pulse-check of new and long-term hires to gauge satisfaction as well as hurdles standing between these employees and their ongoing success. “Millennials don’t just want to spend their time earning a paycheck,” explains Fortune, “they want to invest time acquiring the skills and knowledge they need to grow both personally and professionally.” This includes a “revolutionary shift from the traditional sense of on-the-job training,” specifically, which, “today is a rich learning experience that taps into employee interests, passions and career goals.”

With this in mind, it’s no surprise that our study found that 59 percent of millennials say their job defines who they are.

Understanding, first, what’s led to successful, high-value employee attrition and identifying similar trends in your existing millennial workforce is a great way to begin spotting moments in time and overarching experiences — or lack thereof — that may lead to team members exiting before they’ve truly peaked at your company.

While there may be tweaks to workflows, training processes, and professional journeys that can be made, retaining quality talent may simply be a matter of how you package, present, and promote existing opportunities within the organization — highlighting leadership paths, for example, or bringing to light the ways your company contributes to the greater good. But even if these efforts don’t boost talent management, the process will likely help you identify popular periods or professional life stages when attrition is most likely to occur, and ensure you’ve got ample talent reserves to seamlessly fill open head counts to minimize lost productivity.

The Boomerang Hire

The final piece? Don’t be afraid to go back to the hiring well — in other words, consider past employees for future openings. Again, millennials have more of a free agent approach to their careers, and they don’t fault a company because it didn’t meet their exact real-time needs — and, as a result, they have no qualms about coming back when the right opportunity presents.

With that in mind, many companies are shifting their policies surrounding re-hires — while in the past nearly half of companies wouldn’t consider an ex-employee for an open position, more than three in four have, since, reconsidered their stance. Because young professionals change jobs more frequently than Gen X and Boomers, boomerang employees are increasingly common in the workforce, “Companies have recognized this and have created LinkedIn groups, Facebook groups, and email groups so their former employees can stay connected,” explains Forbes.

The upside: former employees “are familiar with the company culture, don’t require as much training and have a new perspective.”

While none of this is new — the oldest millennials have been out of college for 12+ years at this point — it’s becoming more and more prevalent as this generation takes over an ever-increasing piece of the workforce. Because of their professional value and long-term impact on every organization, let’s we roll up our sleeves, dig into the data, and optimize the way we engage, recruit, onboard, and retain top millennial talent.

It’s not necessarily about making sweeping changes to organizations but, instead, about reframing the conversations we’re having, promoting our companies’ unique points of differentiation, and evolving opportunities that speak to their personal and cultural needs and wants — some that may surprise even the most seasoned professional. But as these young hires become a bigger piece of your organization, embrace their differences and similarities to ensure both sides can excel.

This article is part of a series called How-Tos.