You Can’t Ignore the 46 Percent: Here’s How to Engage Them Before It’s Too Late

How much do you really know about Millennials?

The stereotype surrounding the latest generation of workers is not particularly positive, but this image has persisted because many people simply don’t understand how Millennials’ development — including early exposure to team sports and advanced technology — shaped their needs, desires, and motivations.

In reality, Millennials aren’t lazy, entitled know-it-alls. They’re highly educated, optimistic, achievement-oriented team players, as well as driven and efficient workers.

According to a study by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Kenan-Flagler Business School and the Young Entrepreneur Council, Millennials are positioned to make up 46 percent of the U.S. workforce by 2020, which means employers will need to step up their engagement strategies to get Millennial employees to stick around. This revolutionary group of workers isn’t looking for the same career experience as its predecessors, so Millennials require a completely different approach to recruitment and retention.

What Millennials Expect From Their Workplace

Millennials in the WorkplaceThe Millennial workforce will be an extremely valuable asset to employers who learn how to tap into its needs. You won’t find many productive Millennials in an individualistic, command-and-control environment. Millennials thrive in a workplace environment with the following characteristics:

  • Collaboration: Millennials’ exposure to team sports at such a young age has fostered a desire to work together to achieve a common goal. Allow collaboration, but make business boundaries, goals, and deadlines clear.
  • Flexibility: They prefer less structured environments with more freedom to set their own schedules and work both in the office and remotely. Provide opportunities for Millennials to customize their work experience to suit their needs and tastes.
  • Coaching: Millennials prefer managers who act more like coaches than supervisors. Managers don’t have to spend enormous amounts of time on formal coaching, though; sometimes a quick text, email, or phone conversation is all it takes to keep “players” engaged.
  • Feedback: Young workers are used to having their performance measured in a way they understand. Provide regular suggestions, encouragement, and constructive criticism that they can use to improve their work on a regular basis.
  • Motivation: Millennials prefer to work in an inspiring, comfortable environment where they don’t have to worry about judgment or criticism. Ensure that employee contributions are met with understanding and praise.
  • Cutting-edge technology: It’s extremely frustrating to know how to solve a problem but not have the right resources available to implement a solution. Most Millennials rate their technology skills highly, so they expect workplace tech to keep up with — or surpass — their own capabilities.
  • Personal fulfillment: Millennials are looking for more than just a paycheck; they value enriching work that makes a difference. Provide opportunities for employees to contribute meaningfully, both inside and outside the workplace.

5 Tips for Engaging Millennials

Completely changing your work environment to accommodate Millennials is probably not realistic or wise. And just because Millennials thrive in a different kind of environment doesn’t mean you should ignore your other employees’ preferences. You probably have employees who still prefer a structured, individualistic environment, and their needs are just as important.

While you can’t please everyone, you can offer certain perks to engage Millennials that don’t require a complete environmental shift:

  • Regular two-way feedback: Set aside time to give personal feedback on a regular basis, but also seek feedback from employees regarding the company’s performance. Your employees probably have valuable insights to share.
  • Employee gifts: Reward your employees for a job well done. While you can offer bonuses, don’t limit yourself. Look for creative ways to reward your employees, such as tickets to a sporting event, a pizza party, or a staff field trip.
  • Paid volunteer days: Millennials value helping the community and positively impacting the world. Let employees have one day per quarter to volunteer at a charitable organization of their choice.
  • Unlimited vacation and sick days: You can’t control when people are sick, and vacation days are critical to mental health. Allowing employees to take as many days off as they need (within reason), as long as they still complete their work, gives them a sense of freedom, reduces stress, and prevents illnesses from spreading throughout the office.
  • Ability to work remotely: Working remotely is one of the things Millennials value most because they crave independence and flexibility. If an employee needs to get out of the office to enhance creativity while working on a project, why not let him do it?

Human capital is your most valuable resource, and now is the time to figure out how to engage Millennial employees — before they make up almost half the workforce in six short years. Accommodating Millennials’ needs shows an entire generation of workers that you value their time, effort, and commitment. They’ll be more fulfilled, both personally and professionally, making them more likely to join your team, work hard, and stay with your company for the long haul. 

About the Author

Matt Gordon headshotMatthew Gordon is President and CEO of The Gordon Group, a holding company that primarily manages GraduationSource and Avanti Systems USA. Gordon strives to foster positive corporate culture and empower young minds.