I’m a millennial. Well, technically. I was born in ’86, so I’m at the older end of the millennial spectrum. So, while I may not be the stereotypical glued-to-my-phone and obsessed-with-social-media type of millennial, I did have the unique experience of witnessing the birth of the internet during my pre-teen years. Therefore, I would say I’m qualified to talk about millennials – and how to engage us at work.
I’m sure you’ve read articles about engaging millennial employees before. After all, we’re a popular topic. There are studies all over the internet about why we’re disengaged and how we love to change jobs every few years. There are countless articles about what matters to us and how employers can appeal to our enigmatic dispositions. You know, I wouldn’t even be surprised if there’s an entire website dedicated to millennials in the workforce. Here’s the thing, though – I’d bet my sizeable collection of Tamagotchis that many of the articles and studies you’ve read weren’t even written by actual millennials. So, I’m going to give you the real scoop, straight from the mind of a real millennial.
Demystifying the Millennial Mindset
Part of what makes millennials such a popular topic is because we’re so vastly different from previous generations. Many of us had parents that were slightly more hands-off than their parents. We had more freedom to make our own decisions, and our parents and teachers supported us with the tools we needed to do so. We still had structure, but it was freeing – not stifling. When the dawn of the internet arrived, we embraced it with open arms. We were on the precipice of the greatest technological shift in history; the world we lived in was changing rapidly – and it was in our hands! This is what made millennials one of the most creative, independent, and adaptable generations to date.
Being a fiercely independent, creative thinker has its perks, but it also has its downfalls. We are, to say the least, conflicted about work. We’re willing to work hard, but in return, we want a healthy work-life balance. We cherish our independence, yet we’re fueled by constructive feedback. Keeping us engaged at work can be tricky, and disengaged millennials have no qualms about leaving for bigger and better opportunities. Employers spend millions each year on engagement software, surveys, and programs, yet only one-third of the American workforce claims to be engaged at work. Why? Because they’re not doing it right. If you really want to engage millennials, you must look at the big picture, and you must look at it from our perspective.
We want the resources to shape our own careers. Remember, we’re independent. We don’t want jobs where we feel like cogs in a machine. We want to be engaged! We’re attracted to positions that enable us to grow and empower us with opportunities to learn and make impactful changes within the company. Don’t just put that in your job description, either, because we’re also really good at spotting a fake. Work closely and continuously with your millennial employees to identify their goals and the steps you can take to help them succeed alongside your business.
We don’t care about superfluous benefits; we just want to get paid appropriately. Listen, the cost of living is insane right now. It’s wayyy beyond today’s average wage. You can try to attract us with all the free snacks and casual Fridays in the world and we still won’t care. What we really want – and need – is pay that’s proportionate to our roles. It has nothing to do with us being entitled (so stop f’n saying that!) and everything to do with employers realizing that earning a living isn’t as easy as it used to be, and that they need to adjust pay accordingly.
Culture fit is important to us, yes, but not in the way you might think. It seems like many employers confuse company perks with company culture. And while perks certainly are a part of the culture, they’re not necessarily what attracts us to one employer over another. Millennials care a lot about what your brand’s core values are. We want to work for companies that are innovative and diverse, ones with awesome people who truly care about their employees and want to make a difference in the world together. We want to feel like we’re part of a collaborative and supportive team, especially those of us who work in remote roles.
Quick Tips to Increase Employee Retention Rates
I’ve talked a lot about what millennials want (because I’m whiny and demanding), so I feel like you should have a pretty good idea about what drives us now. Engaging millennial employees shouldn’t be some one-time survey or program; it’s a way of thinking that should dictate everything from onboarding to exit interviews. I’d like to offer a few actionable tips you can use to increase employee engagement rates the right way:
- Spend time creating meaningful job descriptions that clearly highlight the requirements of the role and the company mission. Try to paint a picture of what a typical day looks like at your organization.
- Ditch the traditional interview questions and dig deeper than just asking about a candidate’s skills and experience. Use this time to learn about their hobbies, their goals, and how they will fit within the company culture.
- Treat job performance reviews as consultative mentoring sessions, and have them often. Talk to your employees about how you can help them learn and grow, then identify specific benchmarks you can use to measure progress together.
- Provide structure and leadership but avoid meaningless displays of authority. Constructive criticism helps us become better employees; belittling us or forcing our respect will make us stop caring faster than you can snap your fingers.
- Encourage creativity, communication, and collaboration. Millennials are shockingly good at finding creative solutions when we have a healthy support network. Give your employees the tools they need to collaborate and ask questions, whether it be online or in person, and I can guarantee you’ll be impressed with the results.
Millennials Are Your New BFFs - Whether You Like it or Not
I’m sure most of the stuff you’ve read online paints us as a fickle generation that’s impossible to engage, but we’re really not. At the end of the day, we just want our work lives to feel meaningful. We spend 1/3rd of our lives working, so why shouldn’t we have jobs that we enjoy?! So, if you’re trying desperately to engage your millennial employees, just take a moment to listen to them – it’s as easy as that. Plus, you don’t really have a choice anymore. 😉