7 Ways to Engage Millennials in the Workplace
Don’t call it a comeback, at least not for Millennials in the workplace. In many regards, this generation isn’t a rehash of their parents and grandparents. They have a completely different set of values for the workplace, one that uniquely fuses their personal interests. Consider it more of a takeover, if you will—one that’s been catapulted by technology and cultural advances. Not an “Empire of the Ants” kind of takeover, but one based solely on the numbers. If you don’t believe the times have changed, visit a class of college freshmen and ask them to tell you the first thing that enters their mind when you say the word “catfish”. Yep, Millennials are different.
Back in 2008, Gen Y Expert Amy Lynch predicted that by 2014, 36 percent of the U.S. workforce would be comprised of Millennials and by 2020, nearly half (46 percent) of all U.S. workers would be from this generation. By comparison, Gen X only represents 16 percent of the current workforce.
So, the question for CEOs and HR directors is how to attract and engage this generation in the workplace. This is particularly true of small to mid-size companies competing with larger, more established companies for top talent.
When approaching Millenials, remember, this is the generation who, instead of gathering around the water cooler in the morning to discuss current events, is more likely to post a video of their morning visit to the local coffee shop to create their own current event. This is the generation where 23 year-old Jake is likely to dump 22-year old Sara via Facebook while she in turn boldly responds on Twitter: I was dumped for Brittany the Skank #jakewetsthebed #ihatehim.
You get the idea. You’re competing with more noise than ever before so your value proposition to this generation has to be clear, concise and focused. While there is no panacea for engaging all employees, here are seven tips to help you begin the process with Millennials:
- Don’t tie them to a chair. “I believe my worth is tied to spending 8-10 hours a day in my office chair,” said no Millennial ever. If you think productivity is based on a specific location (there are exceptions), then you’ve already made your first mistake. Millennials crave flexibility in their working environment. If the position allows for it and trust has been established, provide an option for employees to telecommute one or two days a week. If the position doesn’t allow for telecommuting, create a comfortable environment where information and ideas can be shared freely outside the confines of a cubicle, like a group desk or an outside hotspot.
- Paychecks and benefits are nice, but Millennials are looking for purpose in their work. A survey of the college Class of 2012 conducted by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) saw a declining number of seniors looking to the for-profit private sector as their primary, post-graduation choice for employment. Instead, students were exploring options for careers in the nonprofit sector. It’s clear that Millennials want to make a difference. It’s ok to be for-profit; just be sure to integrate your social responsibility into everyday work culture so it becomes a part of your brand.
- Honor their input. Historically, ideas and innovation have come from the top, but truthfully they can come from anywhere in the company. Encourage Millennials to share their ideas, and take their contributions seriously. The tech savvy, video game generation may come up with suggestions that test your tried and true methods and help push your company to the next level.
- Give them time… to explore the world, parent, etc. All work and no play can make anyone feel crabby, but this generation in particular has no desire to work 80+ hours a week and miss out on things like weekend getaways and music festivals. Not only that, but too much work can be counterproductive. And consider this: Millennial dads take parenting seriously, in some cases splitting child duties by as much as 50 percent. These guys are now demanding just as much fluidity for parenting as working moms.
- Provide mentoring opportunities. Millenials are ambitious and may think they have all the answers, but they don’t. As they grow in their careers, they’ll need more seasoned professionals to guide them along in adding strategy to their tactical execution. If they get fussy, buy them a copy of Marshall Goldsmith’s What Got You Here Won’t Get You There, and let them figure it out on their own.
- Respect their individuality. This goes beyond blue hair and lip piercings. Just as technology has advanced so has psychology. New studies show that introverted employees have just as much if not more to offer than their extroverted colleagues. Don’t discredit the quiet, left-handed worker who gets the job done. Instead, pay attention to your workers’ performance and results. Regarding the former issue on style, maintain your company standards, but allow employees to express themselves in a creative, non-offensive way.
- Understand their channel preference. Boomers and Seniors are gaining in their use of mobile and social channels, but Millennials are still superior users. Make sure your company website and executive messaging are easily accessible and render well on most modern devices so Millennials don’t skip a beat.