8 Ways to Win Over Millennials in the Office

Millennials have a bit of a branding issue.

As those born between 1982 and 2002 entered the workforce, they inspired a number of books about how unmanageable they are. With their ubiquitous smartphones, need for positive reinforcement and increasingly on-demand lifestyle, stories abound about how they are unwilling to cope with the status quo of conventional workplace policies.

Regardless of whether this reputation is deserved, companies are in need of their digital-age skills. Attracting and retaining millennials is important to driving future growth. The shift to an on-demand workforce—which enables individuals to act as independent contractors—is also upping the stakes for talent. In short, corporations are going to have to make adjustments to cater to the employees of the future.

To start, companies must understand engagement is critical. More than three-quarters of employees under the age of 30 say they want their employer to do more around employee engagement—yet only 27 percent say their organizations have an employee engagement policy, according to “The Evolution of Employee Engagement.” And in the most recent Gallup poll, millennials ranked as the least engaged generation currently in the workplace.

Engagement isn’t just a nice-to-have feature in a corporate culture. It is a key differentiator that has been proven to make businesses more successful, competitive and innovative.

Unsurprisingly, 93 percent of the business leaders surveyed for the recent HCI Research report on employee engagement agreed that high employee engagement is critical to business success. Several studies report that engaged employees work harder, take fewer sick days, and are less likely to leave their job, while others show that companies where employees feel highly engaged are more profitable and have a higher growth rates than their lesser engaging competitors.

The benefits of engagement may be clear, but companies can only reap those benefits by creating a culture where employees feel passionate about their work and connected to the people they work with. Fortunately, there are many tools and strategies companies can use to build a more inviting workplace.

Eight great ways to engage your team

  1. Name an engagement leader. If companies want engagement to be viewed as a business priority by their leadership team, then they need to treat it that way. That means putting someone in charge of engagement efforts, giving them the resources to measure and manage those efforts, and letting the company know that these investments are a vital component of the overall business strategy.
  2. Survey employees. There is no better way to show that a company cares about engagement than to actually ask employees what they think. Consider using internal social media platforms to ask periodic questions or monthly pulse surveys to get a real-time sense of the atmosphere. In addition to ad hoc questionnaires, companies should utilize more formal annual survey tools with benchmarked questions and analytics that can be tracked over time. Note: Firms need to ensure they ask questions that will generate actionable data – i.e. “does your manager inspire you?” and “do you have the tools to do your job effectively?” along with more general satisfaction ratings.
  3. Communicate results. Regardless of survey format, share the results (good or bad) via internal social media, company blogs, and other in-house communication channels. Look at it as an opportunity to celebrate successes, and let employees know how you intend to fix what’s failing.
  4. Provide the right tools. Whether it’s support for BYOD/BYOA (bring your own app), analytics to track preferences, or communications technologies that foster timely and immersive interactions, this generation expects instantaneous response through a variety of channels like text, video, voice and instant messaging. What’s more, thanks to a variety of consumer video communication tools on the market today, millennials are more accustomed to video calls than their generational predecessors. Ultimately millennials are looking for choice in how they communicate, which often starts with mobile and includes a specific set of apps that enable them to publish and get feedback in real time.
  5. Train managers to be effective leaders. Bad managers will drive the best employees away. If companies want millennials to stay put, make sure managers have the training and support they need to lead employees effectively, deliver constructive feedback, and make their team feel valued. The Evolution of Employee Engagement survey shows 89 percent of “very engaged” employees believe their superiors care about them—compared to just 28 percent of employees who consider themselves unengaged.
  6. Celebrate your team. Recognizing successes, even in small ways, is a great way to let employees know the organization values their contribution. Along with implementing formal monthly or quarterly recognition awards, encourage managers and staff to acknowledge their teams in company meetings, via social media, and in day-to-day conversations to drive a culture of acknowledgement. Remember, positive recognition can be a powerful motivator in the quest for a more engaged workforce.
  7. Promote interaction. Millennials want to feel special, and no one is better positioned to make them feel that way than company leadership. Executives can show they care by sponsoring weekly lunches or outings, dropping by employees’ offices to say hello, or hosting live online forums where employees can ask questions and learn about the company’s vision. When the leadership team takes time to talk with their staff it boosts morale, builds transparency, and creates new avenues of communication.
  8. Ask for their ideas. Employees who are encouraged to contribute ideas feel a sense of ownership in the business and their work. In exchange, leaders will benefit from a fresh young perspective that will help them position the company for the future.
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