The Millennials: How do we engage this new workforce?

Millennials are certainly getting a lot of airplay in the media of late. Multiple posts within my LinkedIn newsfeed are centred on just managing this emerging workforce.

Millennials certainly are creating change and challenging our traditional beliefs when it comes to how work gets done. They work more in teams, communicate using a vast array of technology and one of their main intentions is to do good in the world. Almost 70 percent say that giving back is one of their highest priorities!

Managers who are traditionally accustomed to a Baby Boomer workforce will need to engage new strategies to retain and motivate this growing group of Millennials. They will be the largest age group of workers to emerge since the Baby Boomers and it is fair to say they will be the key to your organisations’ future success.

Large organisations typically address engagement of their workforce for the whole organisation under the one policy. This doesn’t account for any differentiation between the generations of employees.

Managers and human resource professionals will be challenged into the future to develop new engagement models which cater to generational differences.

Whilst a common perception (often misconception) is that Millennials are challenging to manage, Millennials offer an alternate perspective. Just some of the characteristics of an engaged Millennial include:

  • They seek opportunity to showcase their technical skills
  • They prefer to work in teams
  • They prioritise work/life balance above all else
  • They require social interaction
  • They seek immediate results in their work
  • They prefer speedy advancement
  • They often desire creativity
  • They are interested in clear, point- in-time, honest feedback

So, with successful strategies to engage Baby Boomers gathering dust, retaining and engaging Millennials requires an entirely different engagement and communications approach.

An organisation first needs to acknowledge that generation gaps do exist and that simply having a single engagement strategy is not enough. Whilst it is an emerging area of research, preliminary findings suggest a few high priority trends across the generations that support Millennial engagement and retention. These include: managing performance, recognition and creating career opportunities.

So how can you manage engagement?

  • Conduct an annual engagement study
  • Utilise multiple engagement strategies
  • Provide proper autonomy to managers when it comes to engaging teams
  • Appoint champions
  • Ensure all processes are transparent
  • Identify those engagement drivers and threats that are most significant for your organisation’s workforce (try to avoid a one size fits all approach)
  • Set appropriate goals and targets for your engagement strategy

From my experience I have noted four aspects to consider when dealing with this unique opportunity:

  1. Take time to survey your staff and seek to understand the generations in your organisation.
  1. Identify discrepancies in the drivers between the generations.
  1. Highlight these discrepancies and work on these as areas of priority to improve engagement.
  1. Be bold, be brave, be creative! Importantly, seek feedback from your employees as they hold the key to your future success.