Companies large and small pour dollars and sweat into solving engagement and retention for millennials by hiring consultants, sending HR to conferences, and conducting focus groups… all trying to find the secret sauce to motivate these alien creatures.

Here’s a better, easier, at-your-fingertips answer. Just ask them, one-to-one.

My eyes roll when I scan the plethora of studies about what millennials want at work. Here’s an example from the Harvard Business Review, telling us the top things millennials look for in a job:

  • Opportunity to learn and grow
  • Quality of manager
  • Quality of management
  • Interest in the type of work

Little additional detail was provided. My gut response is, “I’m glad I know this. Now what do I do with it?” If we all gathered around a flip chart to build one engagement and retention plan based on this report, what would we write?

Assuming this report is accurate, the next-step data we need includes:

How does each millennial learn?
What does each millennial want to learn?
What qualities do each millennial want in a manager?
What exactly is “quality of management”, as seen through the eyes of each millennial employee?
How do we define “interest” for each millennial?

The key word here is “each”. Perhaps the greatest reason we have difficulty engaging and retaining millennials is we keep searching for the perfect-but-unattainable, one-size-fits-all solution, as though millennials are all the same. I’ve been led to believe even aliens are different from each other.

Which brings us to Stay Interviews, one-on-one meetings supervisors conduct with each individual employee to build engagement and retention…and to build trust. In fact, trust is the one quality research tells us every employee wants, regardless of age or any other demographic.

Stay Interviews out-perform employee surveys, exit surveys, millennial surveys, focus groups, and all other “representative” ways of gaining employee data…for the clear reason that each person is different. Consider this example regarding a millennial employee at a client company. During his Stay Interview he asked this:

If you want to do one thing to keep me, let me come in an hour early and then leave an hour early on days when my boy has his little league games. Then I’ll work as hard as I can and stay here a long time.

No survey or focus group would have told us that. And it’s no surprise that this client company has seen turnover fall by 45% by implementing Stay Interviews and solving the unique needs for each individual employee.

So if you are worried about millennials, stop the focus groups and one-size-fits-all programs…and implement Stay Interviews instead.