How to Make Change a Positive Experience for Your Millennial Employeesz

Starting your own business? You’ll need to hire and retain some excellent talent. Millennials are highly trained and skilled, and they’re ready to join your workforce. Yet, at work 71% of millennials are not engaged, and 47% will switch jobs if this doesn’t improve.z

As the millennial generation begins to mature and make career inroads, observers keep noting a salient trend: these young people change jobs a lot. Good employers are eager to buck the attrition trend and invest much-needed retention efforts in valuable millennial employees. But why do us millennials jump from job to job so often to begin with?

There’s a lot of competition for our talent. And, there are constant, often abrupt changes happening. Companies get bought out, they grow in leaps and bounds, they alter direction, or they dwindle and suddenly die. In today’s business world, change is the only constant.

You must find strength in change and help employees view developments in a positive light, even if they’re negative. This starts with management.

Empower Managers

According to Terry Petracca, an HR expert from MEL, managers are the number one reason employees leave organizations. This applies big-time to situations of company upheaval and change. Petracca believes authenticity is the number one way for managers to establish a relationship of trust with employees. She says, “A manager needs their employees to believe them because they’re the gatekeeper for truth and knowledge about the company.”

In order for a manager to be authentic, in order for a manager to impart “truth and knowledge” to employees during a time of change, you must empower your managers:

  • Encourage transparency
  • Regularly brief managers with all the facts and bottom line information that affects change
  • Reinforce and encourage their leadership abilities
  • Give them a voice throughout the transitional process, seriously consider their suggestions and act on them whenever possible

Although change is inevitable, losing employees isn’t. Employees value honesty and rapport with you and your managers. Managers are particularly close to employees during day-to-day operations. When they build strong rapport with employees through honesty and communication, employees are less likely to leave. The manager effectively leads them through change as it happens.

Encourage Stress Management

When you’re under a ton of stress due to transition, it can be hard to recognize employees are too. The weight feels like it’s all on you. For anyone, stress triggers a fight or flight response. For employees who aren’t as rooted in the business as you are, it’s easier to quit when stress gets overwhelming. Ignore the fact that employees are stressed, and risk losing employees—and that includes managers.

Coach employees on stress relief tactics; doing so will acknowledge and validate their feelings. They probably know these tactics already, but a quick refresher on the following stress relief techniques will provide everyone with a welcome moment of levity:

  • Listen to music: Listening to relaxing music can lower blood pressure and reduce the release of cortisol, a chemical related to stress
  • Talk to a friend: In and out of the workplace, communicating with someone about stressors really puts things in perspective
  • Coach yourself through it: The most successful individuals know the value of positive self-talk
  • Eat a healthy diet: Foods with high Omega-3 content, such as fish, can help reduce stress symptoms
  • Get humorous: Laughter releases endorphins and minimizes release of cortisol and adrenaline
  • Drink green tea instead of coffee: While coffee increases adrenaline, green tea has an amino acid called theanine, which has a calming effect
  • Practice mindfulness: This is the act of paying attention to one’s senses, thoughts, and surroundings (more on this important one later)
  • Get exercise: Exercise also releases endorphins and relieves stress
  • Get plenty of sleep: Seven to eight hours
  • Do breathing exercises: Deep breathing oxygenates your blood and increases calm

The more you care for the psychological state of your employees under stress, the more likely they are to stick with you. Mindfulness can even improve performance under stress.

Psychologist Ellen Langer has been studying mindfulness for 40 years. She says, “If everyone is working in the same context and is fully present, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t get a superior coordinated performance.” She lists improvements in attention, creativity, interpersonal relationships, and stress management as benefits of mindfulness. “Question the belief that you’re the only one who can do it, that there’s only one way to do it, and that the company will collapse if you don’t do it. When you open your views to be mindful, the stress just dissipates.”

Know Best Practices

Langer’s advice on mindfulness can truly guide the entire change management process. Because each company is unique, there is no single set of rules or practices guaranteed to be best for your situation. Context determines the way to manage change. Yet, rules do provide guideposts. Being aware of them is like being a musician who masters the basics to enable improvisation and innovation.

Change management best practices make sense—after all, this is about initiating change as well as letting it happen:

  • Change from the top down: As a leader, take a proactive role in delineating how change will take place and who will be on the change management team
  • Pay attention to timing: You may feel a big shakeup is necessary, but can your company handle it all at once? Is right now the best time? What’s a realistic timeline to mitigate risk?
  • Communicate, communicate, communicate: Facilitate communication routinely the whole way through, and disclose technical details to management
  • Pay attention to process: Watch the extent to which various stakeholders in the process need differing levels of assistance and resources, and solicit feedback
  • Plan on disruption: Even when everything seems in place for a transition to go off without a hitch, the theme here is that change is constant; prepare for things not to go as planned, and pinpoint areas where problems may arise

There are a lot of variables that leave room for disruption, such as problems or advances in technology, budget issues, compliance with local and state statutes, personnel losses, etc. Leave room for flexibility. At the same time, with best practices you’re maintaining the framework and order within which disruption and stress are good things.

You want change. You want problems. Without them you don’t improve, you remain stagnant and your employees move onto bigger and better things. Be mindful of change management strategy, and watch your employees flourish as your business does as well.

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