How to Engage the Millennials on Your Team

A colleague and I recently spoke to multiple groups of millennials, college juniors, and seniors, preparing for jobs in the corporate world. Our engagements focused on helping these students define the most important values they would carry with them into their fledgling corporate experiences, as well as live generatively in their Strengths in these new careers.

These engagements are a great point of passion for me as I not only am a millennial but also believe greatly in the generation soon to be the majority of the global workforce. Before Leadership Vision, I oversaw a youth mentoring network that allowed me to see the brilliance and potential of this generation yet also exposed the disconnect between their expectations and the workforce they’re now entering. I came to Leadership Vision because I saw so many of these students struggle to find their place in their new organizations and I believe we can see organizations thrive as the Millennials within them succeed.

Truly, the amount of university students beginning their careers offer an exciting upside for any organization, especially if you can cater to a few non-negotiables.

Data from several major studies confirm the repeated responses we have heard from millennial. Below are three practical things you can do to increase millennial engagement on your teams and set them up for success in your organization.

Provide Opportunity for Work-Life Integration

Interestingly, in our conversation with Millennials about values, we repeatedly heard the strong desire to have the flexibility to work from anywhere. Globally, 75% of millennials would like to work remotely. This makes sense. As a generation, millennials have only known a fully connected world, so only working at the office or only working from 9am-5pm seems antiquated and out of touch with our reality.

This is telling of a greater perception of the corporate environment among millennials. Many of the students we talked with demonstrated a great capacity and desire to do meaningful work well beyond 40-hour weeks, but they want to do it in a way that supports and enriches their lives. The concept of work-life balance, which to the millennial pits the office against the home, doesn’t make sense to a generation whose K-12 years were as informed by YouTube as they were by the classroom. Instead of work-life balance, 88% of millennials place a higher priority on “work-life integration.”

How can your company provide opportunities for work-life integration?

Many companies have declared optional office days of the week and opt to connect virtually for meetings and daily tasks. Does your social media or lunch hour policy make sense for a generation suited for working well outside the parameters of the normal workday? Perhaps your required work hours can find the flexibility to honor a twenty-something’s midnight surge of energy? These are areas to think about as you create a workplace that provides the opportunity for an integrated work and home life.

Demonstrate Organizational Purpose

When we ask millennials what creates buy-in to their companies, the first factor they mention is a sense of purpose that they feel their job provides. In sitting with classrooms full of millennials, we repeatedly heard phrases like: “I want to be a part of something that matters,” “I want to make the world a better place,” and “ I want to believe in the mission of where I work.” Globally, 71% of millennials who “strongly agree” with what their company stands for, plan to stay at the company for the foreseeable future.

How do you demonstrate Purpose to your millennial employees?

Start by creating feedback loops about job performance with your staff. Millennials who said their managers consistently meet with them were twice as likely to be engaged in their work – and generate greater revenue and team morale – as those who rely on reviews and natural touch points throughout the year.

Tell the story of your organization. Millennials don’t need to work for TOMS shoes to feel they’re investing in something lasting, but they do need to hear how their organization is making a difference in the world. Start with why and don’t stop reiterating the values behind your products and services.

Shape team culture. Generationally, millennials believe the greatest indicator of long-term success for a business is the treatment and satisfaction of its employees. Train your team leaders and HR reps to foster team culture based on what’s best about the people at the table.

Invest in Leadership Development

In talking to the students, we also heard repeatedly that they want to work in an environment that could help grow their leadership capacity. 87% of millennials claim personal leadership development is a high priority in their job satisfaction. At the same time, 63% of millennials in the workforce feel leadership development is not being prioritized in their current environments. Lack of leadership development is the single greatest indicator of employee disengagement and contributes to the two-thirds of millennials who plan to work elsewhere within three years.

How do you provide leadership development for Millennials?

Consider mentoring – either programmed or personally initiated. Receiving mentorship is of great importance for millennials.

Focus on the people at the table. Invest less in conferences and more in team development tailored to meet the specific needs of your team. Millennials primarily leverage technology for effective networking and acquiring trade knowledge. Your leadership development budget and energy are best put to use when they are focused on the people at the table.

The millennial generation accounts for nearly 40% of the western workforce and will continue to define the workspace as more millennials rise through corporate ranks in the coming years. How are you preparing your team and culture to reach and empower this generation?