Organizational Wellness

Millennials' Characteristics: How to Attract and Retain This Top Talent

Jul 9, 2024
Last Updated Jul 9, 2024

Struggling to fill open positions? Facing high turnover among younger employees? You're not alone. Millennials are now a significant portion of the world's talent pools and consumer markets — and a puzzle for many employers. 

But what if the key to attracting and retaining them is to acknowledge the value of this generation's diversity and embrace their unique perspectives and expectations? 

Here's what you and your HR team must know about the main millennial characteristics to create top-notch recruitment strategies and workplace policies that keep these workers engaged and satisfied. 

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Who Are Millennials? 

Also known as Generation Y or Gen Y, millennials are individuals born roughly between 1981 and 1996, according to Encyclopaedia Britannica. (The exact dates may vary by a year or two depending on the source). They are an influential generation shaped by numerous historical events, including rapid technological advancements, economic fluctuations, increased global connectivity, and evolving social norms.

Their preferences and behaviors continue to impact various aspects of society, from the workplace to consumer markets. That’s why understanding millennial characteristics is crucial for employers and HR leaders to engage effectively with this group.

The most distinctive aspects to identify include: 

​​1. Digital Proficiency

Millennials are digital natives who grew up during the rise of the internet and digital technology. As a result, they are comfortable with new advancements and adapt quickly to emerging gadgets and software. 

For example, most millennials spent at least 3 hours every day accessing the internet through their mobile devices in 2023, according to Statista, and over 2 hours on their laptops and PCs. And that doesn't even account for the additional time spent on these devices for their traditional 9-5 jobs — especially if working remotely.

  1. Higher Education Levels

This generation is the most educated in history. Many millennials have attended college, and a significant number hold advanced degrees. According to recent data, up to 39% of Millennials between 25 and 37 years old in the U.S. hold a bachelor's degree or higher — compared to 29% of Gen X and 25% of Baby Boomers. 

  1. Different Work Values

Millennials value meaningful work and seek jobs that align with their personal values. They prioritize work-life wellness and flexibility in the workplace. In addition, this generation is known for job-hopping more than previous ones in the pursuit of added career satisfaction.

  1. Economic Challenges

Millennials have faced significant financial hardships, including the recession of 2008. This has significantly impacted their job prospects and financial stability. Additionally, many millennials carry substantial student loan debt, affecting their ability to buy homes and save for retirement. 

  1. Distinct Marriage and Family Trends

Millennials are marrying later than previous generations. The median age for first marriage in the U.S. is 30 for men and 28 for women, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. This generation is also having children later, often after establishing their careers and achieving financial stability.

  1. Health and Wellness Focus

This generation prioritizes health and wellness, with a strong focus on mental and emotional wellbeing. They are more likely to seek therapy and be open about emotional health issues. Millennials are also more inclined to prioritize fitness activities and healthy eating.

  1. Diversity Oriented

Gen Y is one of the most diverse generations in terms of race and ethnicity. In the U.S., about 43% of millennials are nonwhite, reflecting broader demographic trends. The millennial workforce is also notably more inclusive. It has a higher percentage of working women, at 72%, compared to 66% for Baby Boomers.

  1. Unique Consumer Preferences

Millennials prefer experiences over material goods. They value travel, dining out, and unique opportunities to enjoy life. They are also conscious consumers, preferring brands that cultivate social responsibility and ethical practices.

What Millennials Want in the Workplace

Millennials comprise 35% of the U.S. labor force, with 56 million employees of this generation active as of January 2023. However, despite their significant presence, they are also more likely to quit if a job is not fulfilling their expectations

So what do millennials need to be happy in the workplace? Some of their primary demands include:

Schedule Control 

Millennials value the ability to manage their hours to some extent and prioritize work-life wellness. They often seek flexible start and end times, remote work options, or compressed work weeks.

Work-Life Wellness

This generation prefers an employer who understands their desire for a healthy personal life. That’s why millennials are quick to ditch jobs that expect constant availability outside working hours.

Engaging Tasks 

Millennials want work that challenges them and allows them to learn and become better professionals. Repetitive or mundane tasks can be demotivating. So, this generation is on the lookout for positions that present development opportunities. These can be certificationsmentorship programson-the-job training, or participation in cross-functional projects.

Career Growth

For millennials, a clear path to advancement within the company is important. They want to see opportunities for promotion or increased responsibility when looking for job ads on popular job boards.

Positive and Supportive Work Environments

Millennials value a collaborative and respectful workplace. They want to feel comfortable sharing ideas and asking questions.

Ethical Practices

This generation is eager to work for businesses and organizations that have strong social and environmental values and act with integrity. That’s why they favor transparency and ethical decision-making. Millennials also expect their employers to uphold ethical standards in all operations, supply chains, and interactions with stakeholders.

Diversity and Inclusion

As a diverse generation, it’s no surprise Gen Y appreciates a workplace that embraces a variety of backgrounds and perspectives. HR leaders can support DEIB by implementing comprehensive bias training programs to educate employees about unconscious biases and promoting inclusive behaviors. Also, you can establish transparent policies and practices that promote equal opportunities for all employees.

Competitive Salary and Benefits

As a highly educated generation, millennials aspire to fair compensation that reflects their skills and experience. They also value benefits that support their wellbeing — such as wellbeing programs, health insuranceparental leave, retirement plans, and more.

Recognition 

Gen Y values feeling appreciated for their contributions and receiving recognition for their accomplishments. They want constructive feedback and acknowledgment from their supervisors and peers, as well as opportunities for career advancement based on merit. Additionally, millennials appreciate a workplace culture that celebrates individual and team achievements through rewards and incentives.

Supportive Managers

This generation is more likely to thrive in the workplace when leadership acts as coaches and mentors. Millennials love to feel seen and heard, and they expect managers to provide regular feedback and guidance for their professional development.

Open Communication

Transparency and honesty from the higher-ups are increasingly important for Generation Y. This generation wants to feel informed about company decisions and have a voice in the workplace.

Strategies for Attracting Millennial Talent

Millennial workers have different priorities than previous generations, so employers need to act accordingly to attract and retain them. Some relevant areas to focus on while adapting recruitment strategies to draw in millennial job seekers are: 

Showcasing Company Culture

Millennials value a positive work environment. To show them they can expect this from you as an employer you can leverage social media and career pages to promote your company culture. The key is highlighting things like teamwork, work-life wellbeing, opportunities for fun and engagement, and any other aspect that could make you attractive to the millennial audience.

Offer Professional Development

Gen Y is eager to learn and grow in the workplace. That’s why you could benefit from providing clear paths for advancement that resonate with this generation’s ambitions. You could also offer mentorship programs and opportunities to develop new skills.

Highlight Purpose and Mission

Generation Y is highly motivated by a desire to make a difference through their work. To attract them, you could showcase your company’s social responsibility efforts and commitment to ethical practices and how millennial employees contribute to a larger mission.

Provide Competitive Compensation and Perks

Don’t underestimate the importance of fair wages and benefits packages to convince millennials to work with you. Consider including health insurance, parental leave, student loan repayment assistance, retirement savings plans, and flexible spending accounts to exceed your millennial employees’ expectations.

Be Flexible

Millennials love to have balance between their work and their personal lives. You’ll keep them happy if you offer them flexible work arrangements and remote work options. These perks enable them to tailor their work schedules to better suit their individual needs and preferences.

Tips for Retaining Millennial Employees

Millennials are the job-hopping generation, with three times more of them abandoning and switching jobs regularly than previous generations, according to Gallup. The same source states that the millennial turnover rate costs businesses up to $30.5 billion in previous years. To keep your millennial workforce from seeking job opportunities outside your organization, you must:

  1. Listen to their needs 
  2. Provide solutions that address their concerns and aspirations
  3. Implement fair chance hiring practices
  4. Keep your recruitment promises (like PTO agreements and other benefits)
  5. Enforce solid conflict resolution practices

Attract and Retain Top Millennial Talent with Wellhub

Millennials form the vast majority of the global workforce — and they notably have high expectations, strong convictions, and a readiness to stand up for what they want. This generation highly values an organization's commitment to their wellbeing and personal growth. 

At Wellhub, we can help you keep workers of any age healthy and motivated so that they can thrive. We’re a wellbeing program that gives employees access to the best in fitness, mindfulness, nutrition, and sleep! 

Ready to take the first step toward retaining top millennial talent? Talk to a wellbeing specialist today!

Company healthcare costs drop by up to 35% with Wellhub! (* Based on proprietary research comparing healthcare costs of active Wellhub users to non-users.) Talk to a Wellbeing Specialist to see how we can help reduce your healthcare spending!

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Wellhub Editorial Team

The Wellhub Editorial Team empowers HR leaders to support worker wellbeing. Our original research, trend analyses, and helpful how-tos provide the tools they need to improve workforce wellness in today's fast-shifting professional landscape.


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