Companies and their senior leadership are asking the wrong question. It's not about how to hire or attract Millennial talent. And it's not even about how you keep them engaged. The real question is: What can you offer them that they can't get anywhere else? What can you do to nurture loyalty--and how does that ladder up to solving tangential issues like employee engagement?

A 2016 survey by Jobvite cited that in the entire work force, 18 percent of the total changes jobs every one to three years. For Millennials, it's 42 percent.

This means that by the time you get Millennial employees trained and actively providing value for your team and company, they're on to the next one. They're looking for the next job, which typically comes with a promotion, a pay raise, a new blend of benefits, and (they hope) a more attractive day-to-day routine.

Here's the truth of the matter: It's really not about Millennials at all. It's about people: human-to-human interaction, and the underlying issues with running a business that tend to run opposite of personal development. It's just that Millennials are the most vocal generation thus far, unafraid to speak up along the way about what they're feeling.

Managers want productivity; Millennials want to be judged on results, not hours clocked. Older business owners want them to follow their rules, their way; Millennials want to change how things are done to be more efficient, through using and interacting with technology. The list goes on and on.

What has happened is that the entire Millennial generation seems to have been chalked up as a bunch of kids who just need some new toys to keep them entertained. Which has led to the installation of ridiculous props in the workplace to make it seem like the work environment is something that it's not: an arcade machine in the corner, a bar and barista by the far wall, big chalkboards or dry erase boards around the office for Millennial employees to write inspirational quotes on. And sure, all those things are great. They can certainly make a work environment feel more playful. But how impactful is an arcade machine, really, when the manager you report to every day continues to operate like an hour-chasing conductor?

Companies need to start asking themselves how they can impact every employee's personal development

It's astounding to me how many people, business leaders included, seem to have "pinpointed" the issues plaguing the Millennial generation. I am a Millennial myself, and here's what I have been reduced to: impatient, entitled, naive to the way the world works, uninterested in paying my dues, expecting everything to happen overnight, and most of all, filled with a false sense of confidence because I "received too many participation awards growing up."

And yet the irony is that after all the conviction backing these sweeping generalizations of the Millennial generation, the proposed solutions have been to order a few Ping-Pong tables for the office, put together a Frisbee team, and serve beer on Fridays.

How, in any capacity, does that address the underlying issues (and coinciding reasons) for Millennials to seem to be job hopping like crazy?

They don't--and that's why so many companies are struggling to keep their Millennial employees engaged. And not just engaged, but keep them at all.

If you want to keep your Millennial employees over the long term, you have to be willing to offer them this one thing

Guidance.

You say Millennials are impatient? How many of you--whether you're the business owner or the vice president or even just a middle manager--make the time to nurture and mentor that Millennial you call so impatient?

You say Millennials are entitled? How many of you make an effort to listen and understand where that perceived entitlement is coming from?

You say Millennials expect everything to happen overnight? How many of you see that as a positive opportunity to play the mentor and give them some guidance as to life's journey?

Not very many. And that's the root of the root, the real reason so many companies struggle with loyalty. Because loyalty isn't found in a Ping-Pong table, or at the bottom of a red Solo cup on a Friday afternoon.

Loyalty is the way you treat, nurture, and help someone else grow--friend, significant other, or, dare we say, employee.

Loyalty is the impact you have, as a person, on someone else, with the awareness that the other person has his or her own life, desires, hopes, and aspirations.

Loyalty is the exchange that happens beyond the paycheck. The conversations you have and the guidance you provide employees, teaching them, empowering them, showing them not just how to perform their jobs better but how to be the best they can be in life.

"What are Millennials searching for?" you ask.

They're searching for that.

Someone willing to show them the way, but give them enough freedom to also figure things out on their own.

The moment you start thinking of your Millennial employees as mentees, people you can teach and impact as a human being, is the moment you begin to build real loyalty and longevity.

It's just, most people don't want to do that.

And buying a Ping-Pong table is a whole lot easier.

Published on: Apr 6, 2017
Like this column? Sign up to subscribe to email alerts and you'll never miss a post.
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.