05/16/2012 03:49 pm ET Updated Jul 16, 2012

Millennials + Cause = Employee Retention

5 Things To Know About Your Gen Y Staff

Let's do a headcount:

Millennials: 79 million. Baby boomers: 76 million.

No wonder the younger tykes are increasingly stamping their mark on workplace cultures. Millennials are the fastest growing segment of today's workforce, and even amidst a prolonged recession companies are competing for their talents. So if employers want to hold on to this demographic, they must implement employee retention practices that speak to Gen Y.

Here's a little tip: many of those practices are rooted in one thing -- cause.


A recent Boston Consulting Group study found that Millennials are concerned about big social issues and believe that involvement in causes is a fundamental part of life. The study identified a variety of traits that characterize this generation:

  • Technically savvy. Even though Millennials grew up with technology and are constantly plugged in, they also want to connect and share experiences offline and in person.
  • Team-oriented. This generation grew up in play groups, playing team sports or other group activities. They understand the value of teamwork, so Millenials want to be involved and make a difference. They believe that a collective action can change the world and tend to become actively involved in large social movements. Receptive to cause marketing, Millenials are more likely to buy products that support their cause.
  • Value work-life balance. Millennials understand the benefits of a balanced life, personal growth and being productive. They tend to like their jobs more than previous generations and stay in jobs that fit their talents and passions, but they won't stay in jobs just for security.
  • Achievement-oriented. Ambitious and achievement-oriented, the Millennial search for meaning and learning extends to their work. They seek out new challenges and have high expectations of their employers. This group is not afraid to question authority.
  • Need acknowledgement. The opinions and recognition of their friends and superiors are important to Millenials, who seek attention through feedback and praise from people who are important to them.


Encompassing the values that Millenials care about, a well-managed employee volunteer program is key to recruiting and retaining the Millennial workforce. Smart corporate cause campaigns allow Millennials to contribute not only financially but also with their talents, as skills-based volunteering comprises a large segment of volunteer service needs. Even if Millennials don't have as much time as they would like to dedicate to a cause, they can engage in micro-volunteering activities, using up-to-the-minute applications via their computers or smartphones.

Speaking to Millennials' desire to connect off-line, corporate volunteering programs -- especially if they incorporate social media and mobile capabilities -- allow Gen Y-ers to do meaningful work with their colleagues and build a sense of worthwhile teamwork. This in turns develops company pride and employee engagement, leading to happier and more productive workers. Implementing employee recognition into your volunteer program -- such as prizes for fundraising competitions -- will help acknowledge your Millennials' contributions outside of their jobs.

As Baby Boomers grow older and pass their peak earning and spending years, the influence of Millennials will only increase. Just as companies that understand and market products to the characteristics of this generation benefit financially in terms of sales, companies that understand and embrace the values of the Millennials within their corporate cultures will benefit in terms of a stable, content and productive workforce.