Millennial employees are three times more likely to change jobs than their non-millennial counterparts, according to a recent Gallup report on millennials in the workplace. This turnover comes at a high price, costing the U.S. economy an estimated $30.5 billion annually. Part of the reason for this trend is that only 29% of millennials are engaged at work.
Employee engagement can directly impact a company’s bottom line, starting with employee performance and productivity. Companies with a high level of employee engagement typically enjoy a healthy morale, increased loyalty and greater retention compared to companies whose employees are less engaged.
Because millennials now comprise the largest percentage of today’s workforce—surpassing all other generations in 2016—it is critical that leaders find ways to boost engagement among millennial employees.
These five strategies can help leaders keep millennial employees engaged at work:
Provide Ongoing Feedback
Millennials have been raised with a constant feedback loop, and tend to grow anxious in its absence. Whereas other generations are content with annual or quarterly performance reviews, one study found that most millennials prefer receiving feedback monthly.
And they’re not just seeking praise. While millennials want to know what they’re doing well, they’re also interested in hearing about ways they can improve their performance. The days of candy-coating feedback are over; millennials prefer authenticity and place a high value on honest, constructive criticism—particularly if it will help them grow professionally.
Create Opportunities for Career Growth
Most millennials think beyond the here and now, looking for ways to advance their career. As a leader, you can support their professional advancement by providing ongoing training, either in-person or online. Encourage (and pay for) them to attend conferences, seminars and workshops. Let them know about opportunities for advancement—and what steps they can take to reach the next milestone in their career.
Millennials are receptive to being coached, and appreciate being mentored by more seasoned professionals who can offer insights, feedback and support on a regular basis. Mentors can help newer employees learn about the nuances of a corporate culture, and to deftly navigate potential political landmines.
Trust and Empower
Millennials want their contributions to count. Leaders can empower millennial employees by allowing them to take ownership of their work. Employees who take pride in their work tend to become personally invested in their team’s (and their company’s) success.
As hard as it might seem, especially at first, resist the urge to micromanage millennial employees. Unless the stakes are high, allowing them to stumble—and to bounce back from failure—facilitates their growth and reinforces your trust in their competence. When things go wrong (and they will), work together to come up with solutions. Reframe “failures” as “teaching moments.”
A survey conducted by Trinity Solutions showed that 79 percent of respondents had experienced micromanagement. Approximately 69 percent said they considered changing jobs because of micromanagement and another 36 percent actually changed jobs. Seventy-one percent said being micromanaged interfered with their job performance while 85 percent said their morale was negatively impacted.
Micromanagement will eventually lead to a massive breakdown of trust. Your staff will no longer see you as a manager, but a despot whose only desire is to wall up its staff until the only thing they see is the job. This crushing act breaks what little trust already exists between employee and manager. When trust is gone, two things can happen: A serious loss of productivity, along with a loss of employees. Yes, the latter is a worst-case scenario, but happens. Trust is a two-way street: Your staff must be able to trust you as much as you trust them. Micromanagement destroys trust.
Flexible work hours are becoming more common as today’s employers recognize that job performance doesn’t necessarily hinge on working from 9 to 5. According to one study, the majority of millennials—77 percent—value flexible work hours, and believe that it positively influences their productivity. Unlike other generations (and within reason), millennials don’t mind blurring boundaries between home and work, checking emails and responding to texts during off-hours.
Employees who are afforded the leeway to adapt their work schedule to allow for greater work-life balance are typically less stressed; they also feel respected, contributing to higher levels of engagement. Treat your millennial employees as adults, giving them a long leash—unless they abuse it.
With flexible work schedules, employers experience benefits as well. Giving up some control of work schedules gives increased employee morale, engagement, and commitment to the organization. The option also reduces employee turnover, absenteeism, and tardiness by allowing workers to flex hours around home and family obligations. The flow of projects and work may increase as employees are able to work when they accomplish most, feel freshest, and enjoy working.
Flexible scheduling is becoming more common at modern organizations, and is even a highlighted perk for a number of Best Places to Work.
Cultivate a Culture of Purpose
Employee engagement is closely tied to the ability to identify with a company’s purpose—beyond profits. Finding meaning in their work is especially important to millennials, who value purpose and crave connection.
When leaders intentionally create an aligned culture around the company’s purpose, mission and vision, they inspire employees to feel a greater connection with their work, and to experience a higher level of engagement.
Understanding Breeds Engagement
Millennials are an often-misunderstood generation. Frequently mislabeled as lazy, non-committal or self-centered, millennials can be fiercely loyal, hard-working employees. Understanding their perspective allows leaders to cultivate healthy relationships with—and a high level of engagement in—their millennial employees.
If you’d like to create a vision-driven workplace but don’t know where to start, contact us today for a 1:1 consultation or join us for our next interactive online workshop on Talent Strategy 3.0: Shape a High Performing Corporate Culture.
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