Generation Y represents the future of today’s IT companies, yet many firms continue to ignore their desire for career advancement. Employers' preconceived notions of the “gimme generation”, coupled with a lack of growth opportunities beyond entry-level positions often encourage Millennial workers to leave for greener pastures.

As Gen Y’s size and clout in the workplace grows, meaningful engagement between businesses and these employees will become central to developing tomorrow’s leadership. Organizations must invest in all employees’ career growth, to promote retention and fully unlock Millennials' productivity.

The importance of the millennial touch

Every generation tends to lament the real and imagined failings of their successors, mistaking differences in experience and maturity for actual faults. For example, the technological advancements that Gen Y has grown up with have resulted in a fundamentally different way they work and collaborate. Firms can benefit from this expertise, if they can accommodate Millennial staff's tech-centric work routines.

Technophobia rarely serves businesses well. Resistance to new ways of working will only become more costly to firms as Millennials make up greater numbers of the workforce. Within a decade, Gen Y is estimated to make up three-quarters of the global workforce.

Forging employee career pathways

Our most recent study, Managing the Multigenerational Workforce, highlights the similarities and differences between Millennials and other generations. Work policies around telecommuting, access to social media and usage of technology are factors that influence the younger generation’s satisfaction.

Additionally, research shows that Millennials prioritize opportunity for career growth when looking for a job. According to Adecco, 41 percent of Gen Y job seekers look for roles with growth potential, compared to 30 percent of Gen X. These numbers should be alarming for businesses who don’t bother to invest in their entry-level employees, leading to higher turnover and forcing them to spend up to three times the position’s salary hunting for a replacement.

Thankfully, employers don’t have to break the bank to foster a sense of career growth among their Millennial workers. Businesses should capitalize on the high value Millennials place on career advancement by cultivating the skills they will need as they mature within the organization, nurturing a culture where talent can be sourced internally.

Seminars, professional development, certifications and continuing education all represent excellent opportunities to offer meaningful skill development while boosting organizational productivity. As an added benefit, businesses can monitor the skills their employees gain, and use it to pave formal career paths for their workers.

Today's business environment increasingly requires workers to make informed, independent decisions. Despite this reality, many companies still employ hierarchical controls that leave little room for employee development or growth. Instead, current employers should look to the new generation to understand how to build new skills and enrich their in-house human capital.