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THE Leadership Japan Series by Dale Carnegie Training Tokyo Japan

Jun 17, 2015

How To Retain Your Millennials (Part 1)


Kids today! Each generation struggles to understand why their successors are so different (and usually, by definition, “useless”).  The Millennial cohort are those born between 1982 and 2000.  This is a key group, especially in Japan, because they are not making enough of them any more. 


Over the last 20 years, the population of 15-24 years olds has halved.   Recruiting and retaining young staff has become a big pain for all of us.  The war for talent means we have to learn quickly how to understand them and what they want.  To those firms who just don’t get it, a big Arigatoo!  Please keep training these Millennials so we can poach them. 


Dale Carnegie and MSWOARS have been doing major research on engaging employees and recently focused specifically on Millennials.  The overall results show that 30% of Millennials are fully engaged, another 56% are partially engaged and 14% are disengaged.  So what? Well, engaged staff are more likely to stay and so let’s dig down into what Millennials want.


The study threw up three areas where we need to focus.  Their personal life, the work environment and attitudes to organization leadership.  These are big topics, so today we will focus on the “me” factor.  The survey showed that in their personal life, Millennials wanted a good work/life balance.  In particular, having flexible hours, so they can pursue personal responsibilities, ranked highest. 


This sounds fairly mundane and flexi-time has been a feature of many western work environments for a long time.  However, when companies emerge from major incidents like the Lehman Shock or the 3/11 triple whammy of earthquake, tsunami and nuclear core meltdown, flexibility sometimes goes missing, as the screws get tightened.  For example, the huge corporate cash reserves in Japan today are a direct response to bankers previously demanding loans be paid early and to the sudden disruption of business through natural disasters.  A “hands on the table, no rapid movements” conservative mentality reigns at the moment.


In Japan, one in six of workers never take any annual leave and of those working over 60 hours a week, over one quarter take no holidays.  Not a lot of work/life balance going on there.  Japanese staff are generally apologetic about asking for leave.  Yes, this is cultural and that is why the majority of Japanese staff finish the year with excess leave days.  This means the workplace culture is one where work, work, work is good and seeking flexibility about work hours is stepping out from the norm.  Not a trait welcomed here.


In Japan, 92% of workers start after 8.00am (compared to Germany at 47%), explaining why your train is so packed everyday.  Not a lot of flexibility there either.  Wanting to start early and finish early is a struggle in a late start/late finish work culture.  The pressure to stay at your desk until the seniors leave is strong and the idea of leaving before your boss, would be a novel one here in Japan.  So, how flexible is it down at your shop?  Would your Millennials be met with frowns if they took off at 5.30pm every night?


Millennials want their immediate supervisor to care about their personal life and the effects it has on their job.  For Boomers this is sheer gobbledegook.  There has always been a clear separation of private and work life for this generation. How much do your supervisors actually know or care about the private lives of your Millennial staff?  This requires a substantial mind shift toward a more holistic approach to dealing with the younger generation.  It may feel it is a bit like prying into their private lives, but they don’t see it that way, if the intention is to be 360 degree supportive.


Millennials are in short supply, so we better get clued in fast on how to engage and retain them.  This is a zero sum game we don’t want to lose.



Action Steps


Study the demographics driving the talent war


Prepare to compete for recruiting and retaining the young


Understand why work/life balance is important to your Millennials


Take a more holistic approach to leading Millennials