How to Engage Millennials in the Workplace from Day One

May 13, 2021

Elizabeth Houghton

Sutton Full Potential Founder

It is said that millennials comprise about 50%, while Gen Z about 24% of the modern workforce. The proportion of millennials in the workforce is expected to reach 75% by 2025. With such quickly growing numbers, it is imperative that employers better know and understand how to recruit and retain the younger generations.

While each generation has its own demands, it is not difficult for an employer to gauge their interests. In this article, we shall look at the characteristics of millennials and Gen Z and learn more about the preferences and expectations of each generation. We shall also go over some strategies which employers can adopt to attract and engage the present young workforce right from day one.

Who are millennials?

Impatient, lazy, self-absorbed are some of the harsh ways in which millennial employees are categorized by other generations in the workplace. However, in just a few years, workforce around the globe will be led by and comprised mainly of millennials. Consequently, it is crucial for older employees to try to understand their younger colleagues and help them in making the transition to leadership positions in the future.

Millennials are the generation of adults who were born tentatively between the years 1981 and 1996. Millennials are 1.8 billion in number and make up about a quarter of the world’s population. In comparison to other generations, millennials have greater educational attainment levels. Millennials have also faced periods of employment uncertainty due to the Coronavirus pandemic and the Great Recession.

Millennials rely on technology much more than other generations. They are at ease with the Internet and use social media to interact with and stay connected to the world. Millennials are an urbanized group of individuals who prefer to relocate to or stay in cities for advancement in studies or career opportunities.

What is Gen Z?

Gen Z is the generation that was born between the years 1996 and 2015. They are the most ethnically and culturally diverse generation with higher education levels than any other preceding generation. Gen Z shares a lot of similarities with millennials in their viewpoints on issues such as the role of government in society, global warming, and social change. Since they have not seen a world without technology, they are dependent on digital forms of communication.

What are the expectations of a workforce comprised of millennials and Gen Z?

The expectations of a millennial workforce vastly differ from those of earlier generations. Boomers and Gen X have revealed that for them, the career objective was to locate an employer and work with them for 40 years. Some promotions and other forms of acknowledgment were pretty much the only expectations they had of their employer.

By comparison, millennials approach employment in a more cohesive manner. They want to be treated as if they were consumers of an organization. They also hope to acquire skills that contribute to personal development. They are interested in finding roles that would allow them to maximize their potential and deliver their best performance.

Millennials are intrigued by challenges and seek the help of technology to partially or fully solve many of these challenges. While a skill acquired in 1960 may have been useful for decades following, that is not the case currently. Acquired skills become obsolete much more quickly in modern times and modern workers need to be prepared to adapt to these changes in order to remain relevant.

Strategies for hiring and retaining a millennial workforce

In contrast to how millennials may be perceived by some of the older generations, millennials see themselves differently. They consider themselves to be socially and politically aware, conscientious, and innovative individuals. They use technology to stay well connected with others, are flexible, and curious to learn more about the world.

It is possible to engage a workforce comprised of both millennials and Gen Z by understanding their needs and offering a workplace that caters to them. Here are some strategies that you can deploy to better engage a millennial workforce right from day one:

1. Prepare an assessment of your company’s health: The first strategy that you can adopt involves conducting a test of the organizations’ overall health. Measure current performance level, do headcounts, and KPIs which are good indicators of areas that need improvement. You can also use predictive analytics to find out which employees are likely going to quit soon.

By identifying this information, use your resources to learn what risk factors are contributing to people leaving the company. Use this knowledge to develop solutions that would minimize these risk factors. For instance, your technical team may be growing shorter each day because team members do not have enough time to complete projects. The solution to this problem is self-explanatory and can be implemented in a way that makes people satisfied about their projects and their jobs.

2. Recruit candidates based on your company’s work culture: Millennials look for common grounds when on the hunt for employment. Shared interests, passion, and work styles are some factors which inspire a millennial to work for an employer. For instance, an outdoor adventure company will want to look for someone who is an adventurer, can lead tour groups, and is comfortable with doing long trips.

Likewise, if you have a remote work environment, make sure you hire candidates who are comfortable with that style of working. A candidate’s fitness with the company’s culture contributes to employee retention over the long term.

3. Leverage technology: As mentioned earlier, millennials and Gen Z are two generations which thrive on digital interaction. Prioritize incorporating modern technology which would allow younger employees to collaborate and build relationships with others.

There are several modern tools that you can use to better engage with your millennial workforce. Use a virtual organizational chart that allows employees to update their own profiles and get to know everyone else. You can use a shared virtual tool for managing tasks, updating calendars and contacts. Create a group in one communication tool like WhatsApp or Slack to coordinate work related communication.

There are several onboarding resources online which you may use to help people get to know the organization and its culture better. Inform workers about rules by creating online presentations on topics like sexual harassment policy, workplace expectations, etc. You may also choose to invest in a digital learning library which would enable your Gen Z employees to personalize their learning experiences.

4. Offer opportunities for career development and advancement: A survey conducted by Gallup reported that 87% millennials look for career growth and development in any position. In another study, two-thirds of Gen Z employees said that they wished to be at the top of their respective professions.

You can retain such workers by offering them opportunities in career advancement and showing a commitment to their overall development. Trainings and workshops geared toward professional and leadership development are helpful and appreciated by employees. Involve your millennial and Gen Z employees in planning activities pertaining to the company’s growth. Inform your workers about the career options available to them within the company.

A setback many employers face is that they provide training but are unable to provide a better position that would enable the employee to use that education. In such cases, the employee may take the skills and use them for a different employer. Based on your organizational goals, you should invest in professional development only if you can offer better positions in your company.

5. Offer competitive salaries: In a 2019 survey conducted by Deloitte of 16,000 millennials around the world, it was found that millennials wanted a high salary to buy a house and travel the world. 34% of these millennials said that wanted to start their own business.

A decent salary is certainly something which millennials take into consideration while deciding which offer to choose. Research salary information by looking at your competitors’ offerings and the average salary in the market. Offering a salary with additional benefits like health insurance will make your offer more lucrative for the employee.

6. Support diversity and inclusion through initiatives: Build upon your organization’s advocacy programs by introducing initiatives focused on strengthening diversity and inclusion. Use social media to talk about these initiatives. Have a guest speaker talk to your employees about diversity in the workplace. Encourage your employees to brainstorm and come up with ways they can individually and jointly be more inclusive and advocate for diverse voices.

7. Stress upon the company’s mission: A study has shown that workers tend to stay longer with an organization when they feel connected with its mission. Millennials may have a higher turnover rate than previous generations. However, they tend to be better engaged when there is alignment between their interests and that of the company’s.

Take the time to educate your employees, prospective candidates, and the public about your company’s mission. Use creative methods like storytelling or discussions to gauge interest. Encourage questions and provide resources like flyers to spread awareness.

8. Give performance feedback: The role played by a mentor is crucial in the life of any young employee. A mentor is one who empowers their mentee to undertake responsibility and make decisions on their own. A mentor is also there to provide feedback in case the mentee runs into issues.

A study noted that nearly 66% of Gen Z employees reported that they need feedback frequently to stay at their job. These employees can be encouraged by monthly performance reviews, weekly meetings with the supervisor, and coaching opportunities. Meetings with senior leadership and peer teams can also be uplifting. Giving regular feedback does not only mean pointing out the mistakes. It also means praising good work which paves the path for dedication and future success.

9. Listen to your employees: An often ignored principle, it is vital that employers take the time to listen to what their millennial employees have to say. Both millennials and Gen Z require more motivation and recognition than previous generations. It is vital that their viewpoints are taken into consideration while making decisions. Direct communication and transparency should be encouraged so that employees feel free to express their perspectives.

10. Make decisions that put people first: As the leader of your organization, make decisions that empower your millennial workforce. Think about the future goals of your company and consider how you can coach your colleagues to pursue these goals. Encourage your employees to provide input on various decisions pertaining to the organization. Such opportunities will hone their leadership skills and brace your employees to take ownership of the future.

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