Retaining the Millennials

Written By: James Aiken


Common “Solutions” to Retaining Millennials:
– Increase compensation
– Give them newer tech (cell, laptop, etc.)
– Let them work remotely
– Tuition reimbursement & training opportunities
– Increase company social events
– Avoid requiring overtime

There’s a lot of different options on how to address chronic millennial turnover in a certain position. Associates at Legacy have come to realize that all of the above solutions are actually just added bonuses or a band-aid over the issue – a manager shouldn’t focus on implementing one of these as a solution until making some other changes first. Often times, turnover isn’t an operations problem, it’s a recruiting problem. In the building materials industry, there has never been as much need for focus on retention.

Creating Workforce Inertia – Pairing Common Goals

The way a manager can lower their turnover is first understanding who they are recruiting on a level past their objective skills. Often times managers will get caught up in technicalities, which is so easy to do – especially in fields like technology where there seem to be so many new names, languages and acronyms that if you fall behind by a couple months or so, you’re nearly archaic! The technical aspects of a candidate are certainly important, but an employee shouldn’t just be viewed as “can this candidate do the job?”, managers should consider more often “how can I create workforce inertia to keep this candidate performing at their best for the company meanwhile helping them advance their own personal career goals?

Understanding the Future to Motivate the Present

Some managers will complain that they can’t retain someone in a certain position past a year, but they never ask the candidate/employee where they want to be in a year. When a manager recruits for a position, they need to use candor – plain and simple. They need to understand a prospect’s aspirations. They need to understand what makes them tick. They need to understand the candidate’s vision for their future.

Legacy’s interactions with millennial candidates has concluded that for millennials – its often a matter of them wanting to do more than what they’re currently doing. They want to increase their scope – they want to develop their career. They want to build a legacy. Keep them happy up front by understanding where they want to be and helping carve the path in front of them. If managers want to retain somebody, they need to understand their yearly outlooks (1, 2, 5), keeping up with them as much as quarterly. Don’t have them answer by a form, ask them face-to-face. Having a candidate or employee answer on a form doesn’t help them feel like you actually care about their future, and thereby makes candidates more apt to stretch the truth on their answers for short term solutions.

Be Frank like Sinatra

On the other hand, managers/interviewers need to be frank with the candidate on what the position entails. If the position is one of those positions where there’s no vertical opportunities, managers/interviewers need to disclose it. If the person is going to be traveling three weeks out of the month, disclose it. If the company vehicle is a PT Cruiser, disclose it. Disclose to the candidate the most difficult parts about the responsibilities and environment. Disclose it up front and save Human Resources the tears, time, and money.

It’s tough to retain millennials – but with the right level of communication, forecasting, and planning, you’ll be able to cut down on your aspirin bill.


Written by 

President of Legacy Search, James Aiken has been dynamically involved in recruiting the elite candidates within the building materials industry for many years. With strength in sales and operations, James has built out multiple sales teams for manufacturers and distributors alike. Email him at

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