Are millennials really that different? How to attract and retain 1/3 of today’s workforce

Selena Benic, CPHR

Selena Benic, CPHR

HR Consultant, Payworks

Selena has almost 20 years of HR management and consultancy experience across a variety of unique industries, organizational sizes and HR structures, well-positioning her to advise on HR best practices and improving the employee experience.
Consultante en RH, Payworks

Selena compte presque 20 années d’expérience dans la gestion des RH et en consultation dans une variété de secteurs, de tailles d’entreprise et de structures des RH, ce qui lui permet de donner des conseils sur les meilleures pratiques en RH et l’amélioration de l’expérience des employés.

Statistics Canada reports that millennials now represent the largest percentage of the workforce, with over one in every three employees born between 1980 and 2000 and the most seasoned employees moving towards retirement. Like all generational groups in the workforce, millennials have diverse interests and talents, but we’ve noticed a trend here at Payworks: traditional compensation models and the promise of a corner office don’t necessarily inspire our younger staff. So how can companies adapt in order to attract and retain millennial employees?

Top 5 ways to build a millennial-approved workplace

Ensure Work is Meaningful

According to Mercer’s The Future of HR report, “millennials feel more entitled to jobs, projects and experiences that are tailored in ways that they (as consumers) find personally meaningful.” More so than the generations before them, millennial employees have shared that they want a greater say in the content of their assignments, setting their own personal goals, deciding where they do their work and what their work environment looks like. 

A job is not a means to an end for most millennials – instead, they’re looking for a role that helps them feel personally satisfied with the impact they're making on the world around them.

Payworks actively works to promote transparency, sharing the task of setting goals as measurable Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) at the corporate, departmental and even individual level. The crucial and unique role each employee plays is clear and recognized by all levels of the organization.

Provide Development Opportunities

Advancement can come in forms other than salary increases or title changes. A recent Forbes article advises that millennials put a lot of value on learning and growth.

To help your employees grow, you can give them challenging assignments, encourage them to work in cross-functional teams (such as Payworks' process mapping exercises and cross-training days, where employees in different departments work together to identify efficiencies and create shared roles), enable them to attend conferences and career development opportunities, reimburse their education or mentor them (or find them a mentor). These are all excellent ways to make sure your employees are continually learning and developing their skills.

Offer Flexibility

In an age where many of us can work anytime and from anywhere, the traditional 9-to-5 workday has shifted. While meeting deadlines and ensuring staff availability during standard business hours may still be core to your business, many workplaces are allowing for greater role-dependent flexibility in hours so employees can achieve a better work-life balance. Similar to what we've done at Payworks, this could mean that allowing eligible employees to work shifted or part-time hours or even to work remotely to accommodate their needs.

Make a Social Impact

Millennials are increasingly cause-driven and conscious of their impact on the world. A 2016 Cone Communications Study about millennial employee engagement stated that, “76 percent of millennials consider a company’s social and environmental commitments before deciding where to work.”

Not surprisingly, then, millennials expect their employers to give back to the community, whether that’s through eco-conscious practices, community-building efforts or an increased number of company volunteer days. Millennial employees want to work for an organization they can be proud of, and they gain more respect for employers who actively give back.

At Payworks, our Pay it Forward initiative encourages employees to take time during working hours to volunteer in their communities. It’s important to us that our employees come together and join us in supporting the communities in which we all live and work.

Be Clear, and Give Feedback

An article by SurveyMonkey states that 80 percent of millennials say they want a promotion within the first 1-2 years of their job, so be open to giving them consistent and frequent feedback, whether positive or constructive. When employees receive clear and immediate feedback, they know what their strengths are and what to do better next time. Mercer’s HR report also reveals that an employee's individual performance can improve by up to 39 percent when managers give regular feedback that’s accurate, fair and relevant to their job.

People leaders at Payworks lay the groundwork for ongoing two-way communication by setting weekly check-ins. These provide an opportunity not only to understand the tasks and priorities of the week ahead, but also to understand how each employee is feeling at work (as well as that feeling's contributing factors). Employees are encouraged to ask for feedback and what they feel they need, rather than waiting for leaders to initiate a formal discussion.

While all of these ideas are expected to appeal to your millennial staff or recruitment prospects, they're also applicable to staff of all generations; the only difference is that the latter group may not have felt like they could ask for or expect them. Ultimately, providing employees with the opportunity to do evolving work that matters in a supportive environment is a likely path to high performance, engagement and retention.

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