Get ‘millennial-friendly’ in 10 steps

They grew up taking the internet for granted, sharing holiday pics on Instagram and storing all their music on cell phones. They are millennials and by 2020 they will comprise 35% of the global workforce.

So we should all be thinking about engaging millennials — starting with attracting them away from competitors, ensuring they are effective at their jobs, and retaining them in the long run.  Millennials value a transparent, collaborative culture.  Silicon Valley companies with their open workspaces, flexible hours and their regular CEO-employee Q&A sessions are the gold standard.  While this may not be a viable option for every company, here are some guidelines that will help you to be millennial-friendly.

#1 Assimilate Them

You can stop calling them ‘millennials’ for start. At least not to their faces. And especially avoid conversations that go, “You millennials don’t understand what hard work is…”  Millennials want to be part of a greater whole, and you need to make them feel welcome and help them fit in.

#2 Recognize Them

This is a group that likes to have their achievements noticed, and they can’t wait.  Your annual Rewards & Recognition offsite is very valuable, but it’s still too infrequent.  Millennials can’t wait that long.  They would appreciate a pat on the back NOW!

#3 Frequent Feedback

As a generation that has grown up with enlightened parents asking their opinions, they are keen on feedback.  That project isn’t going to get done unless the millennial has had a chance to bounce off some initial thoughts.  So be pro-active in this area.  Maximize feedback opportunities, which could be as simple as a “How’s it going?”.  Feedback encompasses larger issues as well – a yearly performance evaluation, for instance, will need to be supplemented with more frequent and informal feedback sessions.

#4 Be Flexible

Millennials aren’t really comfortable in a highly structured workplace.  Reporting at 9 and departing at 5 doesn’t make a lot of sense to them.  Getting the job done, even if it means working till 2 am, is the priority — and they feel entitled to come in late the next day.  In fact, a research study* found that 37% of the polled millennials would take a 10% pay cut to have flexible working hours.  Being dutiful and result-oriented, millennials can be trusted to telecommute effectively.

#5 Challenge Them

They literally thrive on it. In fact, the millennial fears being ‘stuck’ in a single job for a length of time. Move them around or add to their responsibilities.  Multitasking is second nature to them.  And ‘new’ is beautiful.  To fully engage millennials you need to transfer them — team shifts and lateral moves that will allow them to explore new roles. This helps them mature into valuable and well-rounded employees.

#6 Teamwork Triumphs

This is a tribe that thrives in a collaborative culture. An IBM study** showed that more than half their millennial employees claimed to work better in groups than alone. They also believe that they made better business decisions when there were team inputs. So build diverse teams, this will only benefit your organization, there is no down side.

#7 Mentor Them

Unlike earlier generations who preferred a more independent work style, millennials generally do not resent close supervision. They welcome the feedback.  And this dialogue is most productive when they feel mentored.  The same study* that highlighted the importance  of flexible working hours also found millennials willing to take pay cuts to join companies that were perceived to offer better mentoring.  And ‘mentoring’ must include training, as they are all keen on professional development and career growth – don’t forget that.  So frequent training is welcome, especially if it is gamified training, for this generation grew up playing with digital devices.

#8 Sense of Mission

Millennials feel that what they do should be worthwhile – they want to contribute to the greater good.  They would ideally like to be in a company that shares their own values and priorities.  If your organization’s vision and mission statements support their values, great.  If not, it could be worthwhile writing an informal departmental or project mission statement that could coincide with the millennial vision.  They could also be encouraged to take up causes like the environment, community projects or NGO volunteer work, and your company could help them connect with such causes.

#9 Leverage Techno-Skills

This is the generation that is at ease with technology – in fact they will have expectations of your company environment.  Your wifi had better be up to speed.  This can work to your advantage – put them to work on the tech issues.  Make them plan and implement a better company intranet, let them suggest tech solutions for office problems, get them involved in your social media outreach.

#10 Work-Life Balance

Finally, this is the generation that does not live to only work. The global public opinion and data company YouGov recently polled 1,000 millennial respondents about employment issues. One third said work-life balance was the most important factor when selecting a job, second only to salary.  So your organization needs to provide a solution to this very real concern, money is no longer the sole motivator. 

And that’s 10 steps you can put into practice to engage your millennials.  You have the general drift, and you can probably think up some more.  For engaging them is now an imperative, after all they are your company’s future.

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