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ASU Lodestar Center Blog

What strategies can nonprofits enact to retain millennials?

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As of 2016, Millennials (those born between 1981-1996) are the largest generation in the U.S. workforce and will comprise 75 percent of the global workforce by 2025. Millennials are often referred to as the “job hopping generation” due to their tendency to change jobs more frequently than previous generations. This high turnover can drain financial resources since replacing employees is costly. 

Nonprofits that want to close the revolving millennial door should look to the 5 C’s of millennial retention:

  1. Coaching: Millennials don’t want a boss but rather a coach. Much like the guiding parents that raised them, millennials want praise, feedback, nurture and support. A high supportive, low directive leadership style is most likely to be effective with millennials. Millennials crave feedback and all good coaches provide plenty of it, in real time with specific and clear details about performance.
  2. Collaboration: Millennials want a sense of belonging. There is evidence that millennials thrive in flatter organizational structures with shared governance and peer to peer collaboration. When this is not possible, leaders should look for opportunities to involve millennials in key decision making on topics of value to them. Mentorship programs have also been identified as a strategy to engage millennials. Assigning millennials to mentor senior employees in a reverse or mutual mentorship program can foster cross-generational relationship building as well as develop leadership and communication skills in millennial employees.
  3. Culture: Most millennials despise the idea of a 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. desk job. Leaders should evaluate work schedules as a tool to improve retention among millennials. Over 81 percent claim they value flexible or remote work opportunities. Some millennials will take a reduction in pay for a more flexible schedule. Early on, leaders thought improving work culture equated to ping pong tables and bean bags in the break room. It turns out, only five percent of employees think ping pong tables and similar perks add value to the work environment. However, millennials do want programs that enhance overall well-being and improve quality of life. Leaders should evaluate what programs are feasible that promote health and wellness.
  4. Career Progression: Millennials want to know where they are headed in an organization. Career path development should start from the get-go. Training can be the perfect opportunity to set career path goals and lay the foundation for a committed relationship. The sooner a leader can engage the millennial the better
  5. Compensation: The compensation conversation is one that all nonprofit leaders should be having with employees and stakeholders. Nonprofits must recognize the importance of adequate compensation within the sector as competition from outside the sector increases. Leaders should understand compensation trends. When organizations are financially unable to offer competitive wages, they should identify other aspects of the overall benefits package that might entice millennials. This includes paid time off, access to health and wellness programs, and flexible or remote working arrangements.

Millennials will continue to dominate the workforce. Nonprofit leaders must understand them and enact strategies to keep them engaged. Failure to do so will lead to poor retention as they seek opportunities in any given sector that will satisfy their ideals. Nonprofit leaders that enact the strategies presented here, will likely develop a workforce of satisfied and engaged employees that remain loyal.

Jessica Cooper, RD, CD, CSSD, is a graduate of the Master of Nonprofit Leadership and Management program at Arizona State UniversityCooper is a Registered and Certified Dietitian as well as a Board-Certified Sports Dietitian. She currently serves on the executive team for Plant Based Utah, a nonprofit organization with a mission to educate the community on healthy eating. In her spare time, she is also a volunteer leader for Girl Scouts of Utah as well as an avid long-distance runner. 


ASU Lodestar Center Blog