How To Keep Millennials Engaged At Work
Millennials, or Generation Y, are employees who were born between 1980 and 2000 (definitions vary) and who began entering the workforce at the turn of the millennium – hence the name. By 2020 they will make up half the global workforce and businesses need to understand them in order to attract, develop and retain them.
One key characteristic of theirs is that they are very transient. Millennials don’t intend to stay in a job very long, and if they’re not getting what they want from a role they’ll certainly leave to seek it elsewhere. Only 57% of millennials intend to stay in a job for 2 years or more and cite unmet expectations as a key reason for leaving. Staff turnover is expensive and disruptive.
The issue here is that millennials expect to do interesting, important and fulfilling work. Even soon after entering the world of work or joining a company, they will want to get stuck into the strategic stuff that’s going to make a difference to the team, the organisation or even the world! They won’t be content with making the tea or watching and learning. This creates a problem in many industries, especially the professions such as law and accountancy, where the training period is long, slow and sometimes not all that fun!
The culture of an organisation plays an important role too. Millennials are more drawn to cultures and brands than organisations. An innovative culture in particular is a big attraction – 78% of millennials surveyed said that how innovative a company is was a major factor in wanting to work there.
But cultures are often a largely invisible element that can’t easily be judged from the outside. Your corporate brand should give a good indication of what it is like to work there (think Apple and Google), but if it isn’t and you miss-sell your culture, millennials won’t hang around for an explanation. The culture and brand must be consistent.
The ideal culture to keep millennials engaged would be a strong, cohesive, team-oriented culture with a community feel. Transparency is important, especially over things such as pay, rewards and career progression – they see transparency as a key leadership attribute. The culture must be supportive too, with plenty of feedback and a coaching-style of management.
The millennials’ perception of hierarchy is very different from their older counterparts too. Put simply they don’t give a lot of thought or respect to job titles and authority, and instead place more importance on experience and knowledge – they are drawn to people who they can learn from and quickly, whoever that may be. You may notice how comfortable younger employees seem to be in approaching the CEO or senior partners in your organisation.
So how can you keep millennials engaged at work?
Start with your corporate brand and ensure it is aligned with your culture (not an overnight task, I appreciate!), but at least ensure they are not polar opposites – if you miss-sell your culture you are getting off to a bad start. Create a culture of collaboration, innovation, community and support. Give your millennial employees as much interesting and relevant work as you can. Try to explain how it fits into the bigger picture, how it contributes to the wider success and why it is important. Also make sure to give as much feedback as you can so they know how well they are doing. You may not keep millennials for a lifetime, but if you can keep them longer than 2 years you are doing something right!