They’re on their phones. They have no focus. They’re breaking the economy. They expect a trophy for tying their shoes.
These are some common (mis)perceptions about Millennials, now the largest generation making up the workforce. Whether or not any of these statements are true, one thing is certain: we need to figure out a way to support this group of young workers in their careers—and let go of unhelpful stereotypes—if we hope to see our organizations remain competitive and successful into the future.
The good news is, there are certain things leaders can do to attract and retain the best Millennial talent. Here are some key considerations when strategizing about how to maximize engagement with this generation:
Support their growth
Millennials seem to have a unique ability to multitask—and they pride themselves for it. They also have a tendency to become bored quickly, and eschew the idea of being pigeon-holed into one role. For them, fulfilling work is both rapid and rewarding.
Additionally, there’s a big misconception that in order to keep Millennials engaged, you need to have a trendy office space with lots of amenities. In reality, they want to find support in their careers more than they want “perks” (although don’t make the mistake of thinking that they don’t care about compensation and benefits—they definitely do).
The takeaway from both of these realities is that organizations need to invest more in their employees’ skill development. One way to do this is to allow them to have experiences in other departments. Giving them these cross-functional challenges fits their work style and engages them far more than asking them to perform the same task day in and day out. Another is to have more frequent conversations with them about their career goals in which you listen to their dreams and collaboratively come up with new ways the organization can help them achievable.
If you show genuine support for Millennials’ growth and thirst for new experiences, you’ll likely find that they are willing to stick around and aren’t the “job hoppers” you may have assumed they were.
Consider your communication
Millennials are accustomed to constant communication. Between texts, Facebook messages, Snapchats and more, it seems there are always multiple conversations going on at once. Not only is this generation capable of managing this sensory overload, they have come to expect it. They typically want communication that is frequent, timely, and responsive—and get impatient when they don’t get it.
As a result, a biweekly company newsletter may not be the best means of disseminating critical information to this demographic—even if it works for some of the older generations. To address this, you might need to incorporate a multi-modal approach to information sharing. Tools like Slack and Skype may be better means of engaging Millennials, as they offer a more responsive and direct channel for communication that is more aligned with their expectations.
Finally, it’s important that employers recognize that most Millennials have a strong desire for work-life balance. One study found that only 20 percent of Millennials would even want a promotion if taking it would negatively impact their personal or family lives. And this isn’t just something they value; research has actually found that people are more productive when they are given some flexibility and autonomy over their work than they are when required to show up to the office every day.
One means of addressing this is by designing more flexible work options at your organization. This could mean allowing people a day or two a week to work from home, provided they are able to stay on top of their workload. For an organization that requires people to work nights or weekends, it’s a good idea to include more opportunities for employees to mix up their schedules and to guarantee everyone a full weekend off on a rotating basis.
PTO policies may also need some revision to keep your Millennial employees happy. Having guaranteed vacation days are certainly important, but organizations might also consider allowing for more flexible sick days or “personal” days. While these things might seem disruptive to older leaders, they truly can help Millennials be more engaged and get more done in less time.
A caveat in all of this: at Newmeasures, we caution against putting too much emphasis on generational differences. Our research has shown that variance in engagement is minimal between different groups, such as Millennials and Baby Boomers. We believe that organizations are most successful when they understand individuals and place less emphasis on drawing conclusions about huge swaths of people just because they share the same decade of birth. Nevertheless, these recommendations are built on broad themes we’ve identified from collecting feedback from this demographic, so we hope they provide a useful framework for thinking about how you can best support the largest working generation at this point in history.