4 Tips for Rewarding, Promoting, Retaining Millennial Search Practitioners

The other day, I was speaking with a friend about the enormous differences between our dads and us with respect to our careers. Both of our fathers started working for large corporations straight out of college, and both are on the verge of retiring from those same companies.

So not only have they worked for the same company for nearly 40 years, they’ve also worked their way up a corporate ladder with a dizzying array of rungs. And they were downright glad to even have the opportunity to climb the ladder.

Well, those days are gone, even in industries like banking and oil and gas. People change jobs more often and demand much more of the companies that hire them. They’re coming in and asking for the moon without even so much as a five-year commitment. Unbelievable!

The Modern Management Conundrum

The ridiculous pace of everyday life, the urge of wanting some and wanting now, and the young age of most people in our industry, are just a few things that contribute to the modern management conundrum. So it’s no wonder that we as digital professionals suffer from and witness work-related attention deficit disorder day in and day out.

What in the world is wrong with them…I mean us?

Truth be told, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with the way things have evolved. Kids today have roughly 10 times more capacity for productivity than our parents did. This is due to a few factors, but the biggest has to be technology and how it trains our brains. One could make a case that by the time someone in our industry is 35, they have more “experience” and have produced more actual work than someone of our parents’ generation at age 55.

The point is, this isn’t going to change. To get the most out of these seemingly inexhaustible, brilliant, yet frustrating youngsters, we’ve got to provide limitless opportunity and reward, and reward doesn’t always mean money. It seldom does.

How do you reward, promote and retain the millennial practitioner?


Strong candidates need to feel that they can quickly “go somewhere” in a job. This doesn’t mean they expect to be a VP in two years, but they absolutely expect the potential to move up sooner than in previous generations.

Again this isn’t necessarily about money; it’s about potential. When someone comes to a new job, they don’t want to be told that they must work a certain amount of time before they can move forward. They want no limits, so give it to them.

Professional Development

Create movement for people. No one wants to do the same humdrum job day in and day out (OK, some do). Most want change, so again, give it to them.

Allow people to specialize in what interests them. Give them the opportunity to become an expert in that field. We can always use experts.

Compensation and Reward

Inevitably, people want different types of compensation and rewards. Most want peace of mind when it comes to the financial piece, but beyond that, you must figure out what “turns them on.”

What really drives them? For some it may be that recognition as an expert referenced above. For others it may be the ability to travel more and go to conferences. Whatever it is, they aren’t secretive about it.

Culture (Working Conditions)

Have fun. We in the digital agency world are typically pretty good about this, but still there are times when we can forget to put culture first.

This is absolutely huge! If people love coming to work, no matter what the reason, you’re going to have a happier and more productive staff, period.

A 9 to 5 day is a good standard, but be flexible. Give a day off to a team for doing an especially good job on a big project. On a whim, organize an afternoon of beers or happy hour — make it impromptu and fun. The best places to work are those where the staff owns the culture.

While the new generation seems high maintenance, they’re really just different — and as far as the quality of work they can produce, they’re spectacular.

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