Commentary

5 Tips To Engage Millennial Workers

With the rapid rise of Millennials in the workforce, companies of all shapes, sizes and industries have struggled to crack the code of how to attract, retain and develop the best young talent. At 53.3 million strong, Millennial workers now possess the largest share of the American workforce, and by 2020, this socially oriented, tech-savvy group will represent more than 50% of the total global workforce.

As Gen Xers move into more senior and executive management roles and Baby Boomers retire (at a rate of 10,000 workers each day), ensuring a strong pipeline of talented Millennial workers has become mission critical for most organizations. Effectively engaging the best Millennials at work, however, has proven to be challenging. Traditional financial incentives that once enticed early career Gen Xers and Boomers don’t seem to carry much sway with young workers nowadays, and the kinds of elaborate and sometimes goofy perks that often were de rigueur at Silicon Valley startups are starting to be seen as forced and inauthentic.

So what are Millennials looking for in their dream jobs? Despite complaints from (usually older) managers who say young workers feel entitled to too much recognition for too little effort, the reality is that Millennials are largely a generation of thoughtful, hardworking employees. While their perspectives on work and life may be different from older generations, the demands that Millennials make of their supervisors and workplaces aren’t as outlandish as some naysayers would like to suggest.

Here are five tips to better engage Millennials in the workplace:

Let Them Make Time for Work and Life

While many generations of workers—particularly working parents—have strived to achieve some semblance of work-life balance, Millennials are perhaps the first generation to proactively insist upon and expect workplaces that not only support but encourage employees to lead more integrated lives—from the very start of their careers. Whether it’s time to explore non-work interests, spend with friends and family, or further their education, Millennials haven’t been shy about demanding flexible work schedules and nontraditional job structures in order to pursue their passions. Older workers might perceive workplace flexibility as something that needs to be earned, but Millennials are having none of that.

"Millennials bring two extremely valuable perspectives that will help transform organizations,” said Jessica DeGroot, founder and president of ThirdPath Institute, a Philadephia-based think tank dedicated to helping workers design more integrated lives. “The first is their complete acceptance that men and women are equally capable of both caregiving and breadwinning, which means as parents, they will have much greater success becoming a ‘team at home’ as they manage both work and family responsibilities. Second, Millennials understand the importance of creating win-win boundaries at work, therefore they can demonstrate to all workers how to move ahead while continuing to reap the benefits of having a full life outside of the office."

Let Them Break Down Silos

Unlike previous generations of workers who believed they had to “pay their dues” by climbing the corporate ladder in order to gain access to information and opportunities, Millennials are uneasy with rigid corporate structures and completely turned off by information silos. Easy access to senior leadership, corporate transparency and clearly defined values are key drivers to what Millennials seek in their ideal jobs. Old-school management styles and hierarchical corporate cultures are two of the fastest ways to drive away talented Millennial workers.

According to a report by PwC, while Millennials said they feel comfortable working across generations and especially value the mentorship of older colleagues, 38% of young workers said older management often doesn’t relate to them, and 34% said their personal drive is intimidating to older co-workers. Flat, team-based work approaches allow Millennials to feel more deeply connected, respected and valued.

Let Them Help Design Their Own Career Paths

An essential component of Millennial employee engagement is letting them have a voice in how their careers are structured. The one-size-fits-all approach to building careers simply doesn’t square with Millennials’ ambitions. Their desire for amazing, personalized experiences and the chance to prove their abilities and quickly rise through the ranks often will trump the allure of a heftier paycheck.

Unlike the traditional career paths of many Gen Xers and Boomers, which tended to be more linear, Millennials are forging nonlinear and unique career paths that are aligned with a personal sense of purpose. One respondent in the PwC report said it best: “My career will be one of choice, not one chosen out of desperation. It will align who I am with what I do.”

Let Them Satisfy Their Desire for Constant Learning

Although financial rewards aren’t entirely without their charms for Millennial workers, this is a generation that’s even more committed to personal learning and professional development, and they expect their workplaces to provide the tools and resources to feed their voracious appetite for learning. The days when professional development programs were a nice-to-have-but-not-mandatory workplace perk are over. Millennial workers assume on-the-job learning programs will cater to their aspirations throughout their careers and job opportunities will let them punch above their weight class.

Let Them Know That Their Loyalty Must Be Earned

Lastly, Millennials know that the job market tables have turned and employers can no longer treat employees as interchangeable commodities. According to a report by Jobvite, a majority of employed job seekers see their current positions as placeholders, and among Millennial job seekers who are currently employed, a lack of loyalty to their current jobs is further compromised if they perceive a dearth of growth opportunities. With more than one-third of Millennials reporting that they change jobs every one-to-three years, job-hopping has become the norm among younger workers. In 2008, 10% of young workers said they expected to have six employers or more during their careers. Today, more than a quarter of young workers now expect to have six employers or more in their lifetimes, a massive shift from previous generation of workers that developed lifelong careers at one or two organizations. Rather than employees proving to companies that they are worthy, Millennials workers expect companies to prove their worth to them.

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