21 Ways to Engage Millennials at Work

The “baby boomers” have represented the largest demographic in the workplace for years but now have been replaced by the millennials who have an entirely different perspective on work and life. I’m a baby boomer and this year I will turn 65, and while I don’t intend to retire I’m clearly eligible to do so. My generation has gone through many changes including: women’s liberation, wars, civil rights movement and many economic booms and recessions. Work for most of us was a means to an end. We cared less about whether we enjoyed our work or the company for whom we worked.  Money was a motivator and probably the most important driver because we wanted to make enough money to buy a house, have nice cars and send our children to college. We still had the dream of being better off than our parents and many of us achieved that level of success.

Millennials as a group were born in the early 1980’s up to the early 2000’s. It’s a generation that has gone through less mass social change but enormous change due to technology that has affected their work and lives dramatically. Computers, cell phones, and the internet along with social media have changed the playing field particularly as it relates to attracting and retaining employees. This group thinks differently than the baby boomer generation. They are my children and this is what I’ve been learning from them.

My kids don’t get a newspaper but get their news from multiple sources, mostly through their phone. Most have waited to get married and have delayed having babies. They tend to do things in groups and don’t even date like we did. They value education but aren’t necessarily eager to climb the corporate ladder. Their personal life is every bit as important as their work life;  having balance is critical to them and whether they like what they are doing. They like living in urban areas with many options for activities to fill their free time. They don’t seem as competitive with each other in terms of career success as our generation was and is. If they have children they may be involved with a religious institution but if there are no children in the picture they probably are not associated with any religion. I bring these “gross” generalizations as a backdrop to what my generation has to do to attract and retain millennials as we leave the workforce.

I’m sure by now you have heard that millennials are not loyal nor do they desire to stay with a company if they don’t like what they are doing. They may end up changing careers up to 5 times and jobs up to 12 times in their work life. The strategies connected to attracting and retaining them is tricky and constantly evolving but one theme that seems to stand out is engagement. The hard part for us old people is to balance engagement with accountability. But for now, let’s focus on what engagement means to them.

Employee engagement is about building an environment where employees are fully absorbed in their work, enthusiastic about achieving their goals and consistently taking action to further the organization. As the employer, you have to show people you value them and you need to provide challenging work. They need to feel the work they are doing is making a difference for the company and for their personal growth. You need to encourage them to learn with a willingness to try new things and provide a career path that matches their personal lives. This all sounds good but specifically what steps can you do to enhance engagement? Here are a few thoughts to consider:

  1. Meet with your employee often and make them responsible for the agenda. This does not mean you don’t have to be prepared for what you have been thinking about but put the responsibility on them to talk about what they feel is important.
  2. Flexible hours are critical. Don’t focus on 8 to 5 schedules but on measurable results allowing people to decide when they are physically in the office within reason. Team meetings or customer/client contact issues are exempt.
  3. If possible allow people to dress casually.
  4. If people are commuting provide laptops and cell phones so they can work while commuting to and from work.
  5. Push as much responsibility and authority down in the organization by providing stretch opportunities to learn new things while still holding people accountable.
  6. Reward people who work at staying healthy and provide time for them to “work out”.
  7. Provide for doctor’s visits on-line through your insurance carrier; it saves everyone time and money.
  8. Provide as much training and development opportunities as needed to assist in chosen career paths.
  9. If possible allow people to change jobs within your company if they are qualified or have the capacity to learn.
  10. Provide life and behavioral coaching and mentoring programs; help people map out their futures.
  11. Provide recognition programs for new ideas, leadership, volunteerism, quality, process improvement, employee engagement, creativity, and collaboration.
  12. Encourage employees to speak up.
  13. Make sure everyone has clear expectations and goals and they know how their performance is going to be measured.
  14. Start with complete on-boarding processes.
  15. Promote flexibility.
  16. Let your employees focus on what they do best and provide training and development in those areas.
  17. Encourage networking.
  18. Create an authentic mission statement.
  19. Make philanthropy a company focus including dollars contributed and volunteerism.
  20. Have regular brainstorming meetings about work and other issues.
  21. Have fun and make work a place where your employees want to be and not an obligation.

These are a few ideas just to get you started.  You might want to reach out to your employees for a complete list.