The generation younger than Millennials (Generation Z) are now settling in to the workforce. They’re 22 years old and below, and many are graduates. Yet it’s Millennials that are the most prevalent group in the workforce (estimated to make up around three-quarters of it by 2025). They are therefore the current focus in people management discussions.
We tend to use the term “Millennial” loosely but according to Strauss and Howe, a Millennial is anyone born between 1982 and 2004. This means your oldest Millennial employee is in their mid to late thirties.
Recruiting, retaining and leading Millennials is no longer a case of attracting cool young talent. It’s about business survival. So how can today’s organisations ensure that they attract and engage Millennials?
Statistics around Millennials in the workplace are now emerging. This allows us to draw some general guidance for leading Millennials. There are four main themes that I will discuss in this article.
Millennials value being part of an organisation that makes a positive impact on the world. In fact, they’d take a pay cut to do so. But don’t panic if your business isn’t the greenest social enterprise around. There are plenty of ways to provide purpose for Millennials.
Consider teaming your organisation up with a local charity, or sponsoring a big event in the area. This should not be about cursorily paying out large sums of money. Aim to make waves with a novel approach. How about allowing every team member an annual paid week off to pursue a voluntary cause? Or holding big team meetings at a local community hub?
Get creative with purpose, and encourage new ideas. As part of strategy planning, invite feedback from Millennials. Ask them how they think you could best serve your clients, customers and community.
You and your employees should be able to answer this question:
“How is this organisation making the world a better place – and how is my role integral to this?”
Make sure that you measure your impact. Millennials are suspicious of token messaging created purely to attract and keep them. This isn’t helped by the rise of fake news and flaky stats. Have purpose because it’s the right thing to do – not because it looks good.
Show Trust Through Delegation and Flexibility
Millennials are more likely to value autonomy over the traditional nods like bonuses and pay rises.
At a basic level, showing trust means lifting some restrictions e.g. social media use at work. Delegate more responsibilities and allow Millennials to prove themselves, instead of micromanaging.
At an intermediate level, consider flexible working. That is fewer days of longer hours, or allowances for working from home. Ask your employees which incentives they’d prefer. For instance, don’t assume that 2 days extra holiday a year will do the trick. How about discounts on life insurance, or free membership to a nearby gym?
At an advanced level, trusting your employees might mean allowing sabbaticals or remote working programs. These experiences increase the value of the workplace for Millennials. They’ll return as more rounded humans – and more skilled employees, for the life experiences.
Demonstrating belief in your Millennials in any of these ways, small or large, will help to combat the underlying causes of job hopping.
Create an Enjoyable Culture
I could write thousands of words about culture alone. It’s the hardest to get right and yet it is most important part of any organisation. Culture isn’t about having a token ping pong table or Friday drinks. These sound great, of course, but I’m talking about much more.
Start by showing all employees how much you and the leadership team appreciate their contributions. Listen to them at the water cooler and in the lunchroom. Take it a step further and be proactive. Ask how you can help them to succeed.
Then commit to fostering relationships at all levels. Encourage plenty of brief face-to-face meetings that are useful. Leading Millennials means recognising that many see the workplace as somewhere to spark new friendships. Yet two-thirds say they find it difficult to do so. Respond by organising social activities which, also help better teamwork.
And finally, praise often. Recognise worthwhile behaviours, attributes and achievements with a genuine mutual exchange that benefits the giver and the receiver.
Encourage Growth Within Roles
Millennials tend to look to the next steps. This is fantastic for your organisation’s workflows. But it is sometimes detrimental to talent retention. Meet the need for constant development with in-role growth through coaching, courses, and skill-swaps.
Take time to sit down with each team member and identify which areas they’d like to develop their skills in. Not only does this show genuine care, but it also taps into Millennials’ desire for a customised experience – true individuality.
Development doesn’t have to be as directly linked to their role as, say, numerical literacy. Tap into general lifestyle trends and life coaching. Look at ways that these might indirectly improve their performance,. Examples are mindfulness at work, or alternative ways of task management.
Encouraging growth is a way of honouring each of my previous points. It provides purpose, shows trust, and helps create an enjoyable culture.
What is your organisation doing to engage Millennials in the workplace? We’d love to hear from Millennials, too! How can we engage you better at work?