HR & Management

Five ways to engage millennials in the workplace

6 min read

25 January 2016

From random acts of kindness to getting them involved with change in the business, here are the five ways business leaders can fully unlock the potential of millennials in their workforce.

Most of us are aware of the importance of good employee engagement. If your staff are engaged with what your business is doing, then they will be motivated to deliver a good customer experience, support each other, be pro-active and generally be more of an asset to the business.

But not everyone quite knows how to go about employee engagement, especially when those are employees are “millennials”. They have very different expectations and motivations to other generations, and engaging them requires a tailored approach. They are much less afraid of failure or risk, and they want flexibility to integrate work with life, working for ethical companies and for leaders who will encourage them to think for themselves.

They certainly don’t want to be constrained by old ways of approaching workplace tasks, and such employees can help an organisation to understand the emerging millennial customer base and how they want to do business. Here’s how best to go about engaging millennials.

(1) Random acts of kindness

Knowing your staff and what motivates them is obviously highly important to engaging them. As a business grows, obviously this will get harder, but speaking to employees on their own terms is critical to effective engagement. Broadly speaking, people want decent remuneration, to be appreciated and valued and to feel like they are a part of something.

But the little gestures can be most important. In a customer contact centre that could be giving people a ten minute break after a tough customer interaction, or a similar random act of kindness. They are so appreciated and make all the difference to people and the way they perceive you and the company.

(2) Give frequent (and honest) feedback

Feedback is something that is too frequently left to official performance reviews and appraisals. It should be an on-going process and should be as honest as possible. Millennials are far less fearful of failure than previous generations and they are used to trying again if they get something wrong.

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(3) Get them talking business. 

Involving your employees in the bigger picture can add value in many ways, not just in helping the engagement process. Asking their opinion on what direction they think the business should be going in, how to improve the customer experience or what products you should be planning next will make people feel included, trusted and that they work at a company that values both their work and their opinion.

Making the links between what they do and the success of the business is critical for effective employee engagement and far more likely to encourage someone to stay at a company that thinks so much of them. But asking them what more could be done to improve things might also provide you with insight that makes a tangible difference to your operations. After all, these are the people talking to customers directly and understanding their concerns, so it stands to reason that are likely to know as well as anyone how things could be improved.

(4) Engage them in change

Millennials live in a world where change is a constant so they can be change agents without even having to try too hard. There is a flexibility and adaptability amongst millennials that was mostly absent in other generations and they are much less bound by established and traditional approaches.

So if you are planning a significant change to an area of your business, involving millennials as early as possible in the process will help with the engagement process and can also assist with getting the rest of the business to accept those changes.

(5) Tell people what you expect from them

Being clear about roles, responsibilities and what you will see as success is the final piece in the puzzle. Millennials respond well to such clarity, but it’s then important that you give them the freedom to deliver that success and don’t restrict their approach.

By 2020, millennials will form 50 per cent of the global workforce so engaging them should be a key priority for employers. They can help to shape our future thinking and give organisations insight into new ways of working which will help them become an employer of choice for their generation.

Now you’ve got millennials on your side, you may be surprised to hear that these hipster beard donning folk music fans are probably the hardest workers you’ve got.

Gail Partridge is a customer experience consultant at PeopleTECH.