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Adapting our businesses for the blitz of Millennials in the workplace.

By 2025 Millennial employees (those born roughly in the 1980s and 1990s) are set to make up 50% of the working population in Australia (and 75% in America). If you are not yet attracting the talented, innovative and entrepreneurial members of this massive cohort, you might like to start thinking about making some changes as your competition likely will.

In order to engage and support Millennials in employment we need to understand their work qualities and personalities. Engaging and retaining Millennial employees has proven very different to engaging Gen X employees (born in the mid 1960s to late 70s) where standard working hours were the norm and staying in a role and slowly working your way up the corporate ladder was the expected process.

The following dot points have been extracted from Michael McQueen’s book ‘How to prepare now for what’s next’ and outline the results from a significantly detailed report conducted by Deloitte identifying 5 key traits of Millennials (The Deliotte Millennial Survey 2017).

They include being:

  • Purpose-driven - Seventy-seven per cent of this group report their companies purpose was part of the reason they chose to work there.

  • Transient – During any given year, one in four Millennials will leave their current employer and role and join a new organisation or do something different. That figure increases to 44 per cent when the time frame is extended to two years. When you consider that it costs an average of $24,000 to replace each Millennial employee who churns through the organisation, it’s clear that there is a financial imperative to engaging and retaining this group.

  • Ambitious – Sixty-three per cent of Millennials surveyed say their ‘leadership skills are not fully being developed’.

  • Socially Minded – Eighty-seven per cent of Millennials believe that the success of a business should be measured in terms of more than just its financial performance and well over half of them would choose not to work for an organisation whose values don’t match their own.

  • Flexibility-Focused – Eight-eight per cent of Millennials expressed a strong desire to have some control over start and finish times and 75 per cent would like to have greater scope to work from home or other locations where they feel most productive. In contrast, only 43 per cent of organisations allow the sort of work-location flexibility Millennials are looking for. Reflecting on how a lack of trust tends to drive a lack of employee empowerment, this raises the question – if you cant trust your employees to work flexibly, why hire them in the first place?

Times are changing from the Gen X domination days where company loyalty was greater and the risk of unemployment was too high to move from organisation to organisation or choose a job based on the aligning values of an organisation. We can choose to push back on Millennials and force them to work like Gen X’s prefer, or we can embrace their unique skills, talents, motivators and ambitions to really innovate our organisations before our competitors do.

In 7-10 years time when half of your workplace is made up of Millennials, there really will only be one option and that will be to adapt and innovate or lose out to higher staff turnover and low productivity.

With that in mind, here are five ways to make sure your business continues to thrive by keeping your millennial employees fully engaged at work.

1. Social Influence

For many millennials, it is not enough that their work simply be a way of earning an income. This generation is unique in its social awareness, and millennials make decisions based on that awareness. According to a Business Insider article, 90 percent of millennials say that their purchasing decisions are influenced by a company’s social commitment, while 63 percent say that they expect their employers to contribute to a social cause.

Millennials are more likely to stay engaged at work if your business has a reputation for social responsibility. Anything you can do to show a connection between employee value and work, such as providing opportunities for volunteering or donating to a worthy cause, can go a long way towards keeping those employees engaged.

2, Employee Recognition and Regular Feedback

One of the most vital mistakes that managers often make with millennial employees is failing to communicate with them on a regular basis. Millennials need regular feedback on their work, not because they want to be congratulated every time they complete an assignment, but because they want to produce quality work that is to the best of their ability. Millennials often seek out feedback as a way of growing in their jobs and ensuring that their work is valuable to the company.

A great way to provide feedback is through regular coaching sessions. This allows employees to gain much craved feedback and also informs managers on the career aspirations of millennial employees. This insight provides a great engagement tool for managers to utilise employee strengths and ambitions to motivate their millennial employees.

With that being said, some form of employee recognition can be a great way of motivating millennial employees, just as it is with workers from other generations. It may not always be obvious initially, but millennials are just as ambitious as anyone else. However, if they suspect that their work is not valued then they may channel that ambition into finding a new job.

3. Career Development

One of the reasons why millennials are so interested in performing well, receiving feedback, and earning recognition for their work is that they are committed to career advancement. Millennials tend to disengage quickly if they feel stuck in a dead-end job.

This generation is well known for its interest in feeling connected with people and the world around them, but they want to feel connected with their work as well. In other words, millennial employees want to be able to fulfill a task that they are uniquely qualified for. They aim for positions where they feel that their skills will be utilised so they can best advantage the company. Managers can keep their millennials motivated by providing career training opportunities and encouraging them to take opportunities for advancement.

4. Encourage Socialisation and Team Building

Just like with work, millennials also want to be able to connect with their co-workers, both in and out of the office. Smart managers will take heed and dedicate time to team-building and encouraging socialising. One way they can do that is to embrace social media and other online platforms and encourage employees to join in. While some may view this as a potential distraction, it can ultimately help your business by turning your workforce into a tightly-knit community and facilitating strong communication between your employees. A great example of acceptable social platforms is LinkedIn and Yammer.

5. Be Flexible

While millennials can be highly dedicated, engaged and productive in their work, it doesn’t mean they love the idea of spending eight hours cooped up in an office every day. For the first and largest generation of digital users, the very idea of an office can feel rather old-fashioned as they are fully aware of how much work can be accomplished with little more than an Internet connection. It may seem counter-intuitive, but while many millennials are extremely interested in forming meaningful connections with their work and their fellow employees, they also tend to view themselves as being more independent than workers from earlier generations. Employers may find that they will get the most productivity out of their millennial employees by giving them the freedom to work remotely when possible, and by creating a casual office environment that allows employees to move around and work in groups.

Work with your millennials to help them feel a part of the company and motivated to do great work.

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