4 Tips to Retaining Millennials

Millennials, also known as Generation Y, make up one-third of the workforce. In 2015 they became the largest generation in the workforce. In 2016, they surpassed Baby Boomers as the largest living generation. Although more and more Gen Y-ers are entering the workforce, retention is a rising challenge for many organizations. Gallup estimates that 60% of millennials are open to new job opportunities and are the generation most likely to switch jobs. Millennial turnover costs U.S. companies $30.5 billion annually and according to the Advisory Board’s research, the cost of replacing every nurse that turns over is approximately $90,000. With Baby Boomers retiring, retaining millennials is no longer an option, it's a priority. Here are four tips for retaining millennials.

Define and Understand Millennials

Who are millennials? There are varying dates for when the millennial cohort starts and ends. Generational diversity expert Bruce Tulgan range millennials for those born between 1978 and 1991.* Pew Research Center defines millennials as those born between 1981 and 1996. Tulgan notes that millennials grew up in the “Decade of the Child.” Parents focused on building their children’s self-esteem, boosting their confidence, and instilling in each child a unique identity. Gen Yers grew up in the era of “everyone receiving a trophy.” They were not taught to compete but to collaborate. From Kinder years throughout high school and college, Millennials were taught to have their own identity and to express themselves. Tattoos, colored hair, and piercings are no longer taboo and are a part of cultural acceptance. One millennial nurse I spoke with stated, “I’ve earned my MSN (Masters of Science in Nursing) if a company doesn’t want to hire me because I have tattoos, then I’ll just move on to the next one. A tattoo has never stopped me from doing my job or saving a life!” Assembly line work and conformity is no longer going to work with millennials. They need the ability to express themselves and grow.


Gen Y is the most diverse generation in US history. Approximately 44% of this generation are a minority. A Deloitte study found that millennials differ from non-millennials as Gen Yers want to achieve diversity by incorporating ideas, perspectives, and a sense of belonging amongst their peers. It is no wonder that millennials network and collaborate well. Teamwork is a strong suit and many millennials thrive and excel in this type of environment. Not only do millennials desire diversity and inclusiveness, they expect open dialogue about it. As a matter of fact, 83% of millennials are actively engaged when they believe their employer fosters an inclusive culture.

Professional Development

In a recent independent survey that I conducted, 81% of Millennials stated that professional growth is important. Gone are the days of working 20 years with the goal of one day climbing the ladder. If you do not offer your millennial employees, from day one, opportunities for professional growth and development they will leave. It is not far-fetched that millennials are the most likely to speak out against unfairness or outdated policies and procedures and then implement problems to the solution.

Millennials are multitaskers; have more access to technology, knowledge, and resources than any other generation before; and are comfortable with the rapidly changing technology. Along with building skills, Millennials want access to leadership. This means that they want the opportunity to sit down with senior executives, managers, and etc. Millennials will show up, implement ideas, perform at a high level, but they want to know that someone is watching and that when the time comes they will be recognized for it. 85% of millennials say they want more frequent and specific input on how they are performing from their managers, in a survey by TriNet. This not only keeps them informed and at the forefront of professional development, it improves overall performance.


The Great Recession is a distinguishing event in the lives of many millennials. During the decline that the economy faced at this time, many millennials were just graduating college, entering the workforce, or starting to build families. The impact of the Great Recession is evident in how millennials save, invest, and spend their money. Many millennials were allowed to vote, for the first time in 2007 and were influential in electing the nation’s first Black president. Millennials want social impact and change and they need their employers to have a sense of community and purpose. In fact, approximately half of Gen Yers say they would be willing to take a 15% pay cut to work for an organization that aligns with their values.

Millennials are not going anywhere. In fact, we are to stay. Mold us, support us, give us purpose and we will flourish in the workplace. Deny us what we need and prioritize and we will flee.

“Yes, millennials will be more difficult to recruit, retain, motivate, and manage than any other new generation to enter the workforce. However, this will also be the most high-performing workforce in history for those who know how to manage them properly.” -Bruce Tulgan

  • Tulgan, Bruce. Not Everyone Gets a Trophy: How to Manage Generation Y. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass,2009. Print

About the Author

Portia wofford

Portia Wofford is a millennial nurse with experiences in geriatrics, public and home health, care coordination and management, quality assurance, and patient education. Named one of the "Top Ten Nurses to Watch" by The Nurse Link and chosen as a brand ambassador for various organizations; Wofford is the founder of Your Nurse Connection conceived to bridge the gap between healthcare professionals and the community in which they serve through education, advocacy, empowerment, and support. Often coined "The Millennial Nurse" she has been featured in various forms of media including podcasts, radio shows, and articles to lend her expertise and experiences as a millennial nurse. As a contributing writer and published author, this Generation Y thought-leader is proving that millennials deserve a seat at the table, as she is sought out for concierge writing services and is continuously researching and developing millennial training.

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Portia Wofford, Your Nurse Connection