3 Ways to Better Engage Your Millennial Employees

3 Ways to Better Engage Your Millennial Employees

Written by: Jeff McDonough, Director of Human Resources, Union Savings Bank

Millennials, or the generation born between the early 1980s and mid-1990s, have been labeled “the job-hopping generation” by some researchers. A recent study from Gallup reported that millennials in the workplace are the most likely generation to switch jobs compared to their older co-workers. The reason for this, according to the same Gallup study, is that the majority of millennials are not emotionally connected to their current place of employment. Due to this lack of employee engagement, they’re more willing to explore and pursue positions with other companies. Millennials have become the dominant demographic of today’s workforce, so business owners and HR departments will have to rethink their approach to better attract and have better employee retention of millennials in their employ.

From my own personal experience (which includes managing employees as well as being the parent of two millennial children), there’s no magic trick to solving the problem of engaging millennial employees, but there is a lot you can do to start addressing the issue. Here are 3 tips to get you started:

1. Provide direct feedback on a more consistent basis

A lot of employers bemoan millennials as overly sensitive workers who need continuous pats on the back to keep their morale high. However, millennials aren’t looking for false praise. What they really want is direct, honest feedback on a more consistent basis. A common practice in most organizations is for managers to sit down with their direct reports for an hour-long meeting every year to provide feedback as part of an annual performance review. If management didn’t provide any other feedback throughout the rest of the year (and their paychecks kept coming), then that meant they were doing a good job. Prior generations were fine with this employee retention setup (or maybe not fine, but never said anything), but it’s unnerving to millennials. Millennials in the workplace are not afraid of someone critiquing their performance, but they do have an issue with being kept in the dark on whether their performance is producing acceptable results. If they don’t receive timely feedback, they worry “how do I correct my performance if I’m not made aware of it?” If their performance is acceptable, a brief acknowledgment that they’re doing a good job and on the right track will do the trick.

Providing more constant feedback might seem like a time-intensive task, especially if you’re only used to discussing your employee’s performance during a comprehensive annual review, but it doesn’t have to be a formal occasion. Start off by scheduling a one-on-one meeting with your employees every two to three weeks. This should take place in a setting where your employee will feel comfortable bringing forward questions or concerns they have about their work so you can provide answers. These biweekly, one-on-one meetings can go a long way towards engaging your millennial employees and will give them a strong sense of belonging at your organization.

2. Assign more challenging work

A steady paycheck isn’t enough employee engagement to keep millennials satisfied with a job. They want to feel like they’re making a meaningful contribution to your business. Give your millennial employees an opportunity to feel engaged by giving them stimulating assignments. However, it’s important to note that this does NOT mean simply giving them more work. You should aim to challenge your employees, not overwork them. Find different projects that will expose your employees to different teams and departments within your organization. Tell them the result you want from a particular assignment, but give them the freedom the find out the best way to achieve it.

As a whole, millennials are one of the most educated generations we’ve seen in the workforce, so don’t be afraid to challenge them with more advanced assignments. This is where those biweekly, one-on-one meetings I mentioned earlier can come into play. Take time to find out what type of work interests them, and encourage them to provide their insight on whether they can be done more efficiently. You just might find a better method for getting things done around your organization.

3. Facilitate their work-life balance

You’ve probably heard of a lot of companies, particularly in the Technology industry, whose employee retention strategy for younger workers is providing a “fun” atmosphere in their offices. Whether that’s having a ping pong table in the break room or nap pods for a little afternoon siesta, the idea is that a relaxed atmosphere provides a better, more productive work environment. While it’s certainly nice to work in a fun environment, it’s even more important to foster one that recognizes the value of a work-life balance. Empowering your employees to take the time they need to build a life outside of their job can make them more energized and productive over the long term. If you have millennials in the workforce who are looking to maintain a better work-life balance, consider organizing after-work social activities such as a softball game or a bowling tournament. Many millennials who are fresh out of college have moved away from their social groups to start their careers, and an after-hours activity can give them the opportunity to socialize with co-workers outside the office…they will appreciate your efforts.

To suggest that millennials are job hopping just because they’re young really isn’t fair. My view is that Millennials are just looking for a position that fits their education, interests and lifestyle. In this day and age when technology makes it easier than ever to identify job opportunities, you end up with workers of all ages who are more likely to search around before settling down with one company. If you’re willing to put a little more effort into employee engagement and retention and making your business appealing to millennials, you might find them sticking around for the long haul.

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