3 ways to retain millennials in higher ed administration

Despite the many studies exploring the potential impact of millennials on higher ed institutions, universities still struggle to make higher ed administration millennial friendly, writes James Wicks for Insider Higher Ed.

Appealing to the millennial generation is especially critical as the rate of upper administration turnover is predicted to reach a record high, argues Wicks, associate director of recruitment and school relations at Texas A&M International University.

But few are lining up to apply to what many millennials "consider among the least innovative and satisfying places to work," writes Dian Schaffhauser for The Journal: Transforming Education Through Technology. According to a survey of 600 millennials administered by SurveyMonkey, this generation perceives higher education as inflexible and outdated when it comes to incorporating new ideas into institutional policy.

Moreover, younger people tend to be brash and opinionated when facing these perceived shortcomings—a reaction clashes with current administration culture that favors long-established hierarchies, writes Wicks. Most importantly, millennials are idealistic, says Wicks. Unlike non-millennial generations who may have grounded their career choices around compensation, millennials prioritize an institution's mission, writes Wicks. 

The number one thing people want from their managers

To overcome the above barriers and challenges, Wicks recommends three strategies for higher ed administrations to retain millennials.

1. Communicate the value

Because millennials can bristle at seemingly unjustified institutional practices, upper level administrators must take steps to clarify "why things are done a certain way," writes Wicks. By opening a dialogue between millennial workers and their managers, administrators can affirm the value of their input and alleviate any fears about questioning institutional procedures, Wicks argues.

2. Encourage critical thinking

Rather than treating millennials as "grunt workers fulfilling daily tasks," encourage them to critically examine how the office can better achieve its goals and mission. Wicks writes that this type of relationship can foster deeply meaningful ties between employees and the institution, and help millennials understand why those mundane tasks are necessary.

3. Be open to change

Finally, Wicks encourages leaders to remember that millennials view innovation and change as the norm. Accustomed to technology revolutionizing the way things are done, millennials recognize that the tools to innovate and improve are well within reach, writes Wicks. But he warns that if you dismiss these new ideas outright, these workers may begin to doubt higher ed administrations' willingness to change.

Wicks is under no illusion that integrating millennials into higher ed administration is a one-way street. He urges millennials to remember that those seemingly outdated practices were once useful and to recognize that change is difficult for everyone, so practice some empathy with your managers (Wicks, Inside Higher Ed, 7/19).

To retain top talent, managers matter

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