Millennials are the largest demographic in the workplace now—comprising 38 percent of the U.S. workforce today, and as much as 75 percent of the workforce by 2025. Keeping this generational cohort engaged at work is tantamount to business success. However, leaders don’t always know what their millennials want at work, or even how to tell whether they are engaged.
The stats on millennial engagement are troubling. According to a recent Gallup poll, less than one-third of millennials feel keyed into their work. Moreover, six in 10 millennials say they are open to other job opportunities—and only half expect to remain at their current company one year from now. This lack of engagement negatively affects productivity and can wreak havoc on your firm’s bottom line.
As HR experts have pointed out, many millennials want the same things as older generations in the workplace. They want to be compensated well, have the opportunity to develop new skills and advance within the company, and they seek and desire accountability for their work. But there are also several distinct ways to help millennial employees be more engaged and happy at work.
These tips, from HR pros and millennials themselves, provide tangible ways to engage millennial employees, enhance productivity, and potentially improve profitability in your company.
- Set performance goals and help millennials prioritize to minimize frustration and increase success. Gallup’s survey, “How Millennials Want to Work and Live,” states that, among millennials whose managers assist them in setting performance goals, 72 percent of them report feeling engaged at work. Millennial employees need help prioritizing tasks, perhaps more so than previous generations. As companies do more with fewer workers, millennials have trouble balancing various responsibilities at work—and don’t always make the right choices unless they have help from a manager in learning what comes first. Only about half of millennial respondents said they know how to prioritize responsibilities at work, as compared to 71 percent of older workers, according to the Gallup research.
- Leverage their desire to make an impact by providing a sense of purpose. “Companies that engender passion create a foundation of rock-solid employee morale that is directly tied to strong retention,” writes Ryan Scott for Forbes. “Engage your employees in a partnership of purpose and they’ll want to extend their stay at your company.” This is particularly the case with millennials. Beyond corporate social responsibility, offer employees paid volunteer hours or a corporate match for their charitable donations.
“Study after study shows that a majority of employees – especially Millennials – consider a company’s commitment to the community when making a job decision, and those who participate in workplace volunteer activities are more likely to be proud, loyal and satisfied employees,” states Scott.
- Keep all lines of communication open, and be ready to provide mentoring in addition to leadership. Millennials seek much more in a boss than ever before—they are looking for a coach who genuinely cares about them and can help them make sense of and build their strengths. Instead of annual reviews, millennials prefer ongoing conversations, according to the Gallup poll. Think of the ways in which millennials communicate—from texting and tweeting to Skype and Facetime. This generation grew up with constant feedback and communication, and they clamor for that at work, too.
- Offer flexible work schedules and work-from-home opportunities to enhance work-life balance. Millennials are used to being “always on” and working from anywhere at any time. The concept of “face time” is a remnant of the past. Forward-thinking companies are focusing more on results rather than clocking in and out of the office. As millennials start to have children, they especially value the opportunity to take advantage of a flexible schedule or work-from-home opportunities. Even those without children appreciate the freedom and flexibility to maintain a work-life balance and avoid burnout.
- Use gamification tactics to make work more engaging. Adding a game element to mundane and monotonous tasks makes an employee more willing to complete them. A simple competition or a rewards program for task completion can increase productivity and engagement.
Video games provide clear objectives, rewards in proportion to the risks or difficulty level, and an indication the player’s status and progress. “With a controller in hand, gamers control their avatar’s movement, decisions, and the ultimate outcome of the game,” writes Ryan Jenkins in Inc. Magazine. “Much the same way, millennials are interested in having control of their careers. They desire ownership of their positions, tasks, and the outcomes.”
Let employees have some flexibility in choosing which projects they work on, and what roles they play within the organization. Some companies provide employees with life coaching services, which may especially appeal to millennials looking to advance to the next level.
Improve Your Bottom Line with More Engaged Employees
You can keep the millennials in your company engaged by adopting any or all of the techniques mentioned above—from offering flexible schedules and opening up the lines of communication to employing gamification techniques and giving employees a sense of purpose. Many of these tactics don’t require much initial investment, but they can save your company money. Disengaged employees can cost a company as much as $3,400 for every $10,000 in salary. Keeping your millennial employees engaged will decrease turnover and enhance productivity—improving your bottom line.
A version of this was first posted on V3b.com