HR & Management
Four tips for engaging your millennial employees
6 min read
11 May 2017
Millennial employees are widely misunderstood. They can be highly valuable and useful – but employers must be willing to meet them halfway.
Though their elders in the business community often lament the selfie-snapping, tweet-sending, noun-verbing indolence of the millennial employees, they don’t always appreciate the myriad ways in which they make life more difficult for them.
The chief problem is one of expectations. Grow up expecting a drab office, 9-5 hours and annual, sparsely-attended company socials, and you won’t be upset when that’s exactly what you get. Millennials grew up expecting better: they want purpose, development and mentorship. They want coaches instead of bosses, and they want radical candour instead of pseudo-pleasant corporate diplomacy.
They want all these things and more – and since they’re expected to comprise 50 per cent of the global workforce by 2020, it’s wise to think about how you can give it to them. Because if you make the effort to be open, flexible, and considerate of your employees’ needs, those employees will repay you in kind. So here are four ways to modernise your workforce and engage your millennial employees.
1) Use of technology
Millennial employees don’t care nearly as much about perks as popular wisdom would have you think. They enjoy them, but they care far less about indoor mini golf and Disco Tuesdays than simple convenience.
Technology is an area where you can make some simple improvements. For example, insisting millennials use Dell, Apple, or any other product doesn’t account for their specific preferences and can be quite alienating: while you’ll need to roll out certain software company-wide, there’s no reason to do the same for hardware. Adopting a BYOD policy and allowing them to use their own laptops, PCs, tablet computers and even smartphones at work has several benefits.
As long as their device can run the software you use, there’s no reason to stop them from using it. They get to use the devices they’re most comfortable with – and you get to save money on hardware.
2) Use of social media
This one’s a little controversial. Social media has an indelible association with distraction, and since the time your employees spend browsing Facebook or Instagram is time they could be spending on work, it’s not an unfair one. But it’s not an entirely negative thing, and if you incorporate it into your work environment, it could yet have a positive influence.
For one thing, instituting outright bans on mostly innocuous things is a good way to alienate any employee; let alone a young person who’s been raised to treat them as part of the fabric of daily life. More importantly, social media can be a highly valuable channel for sales, marketing, customer service, and insight gathering – and millennials employees are better at using it than anyone else. Put these skills to good use and you’ll not only have happier staff: you’ll have more profitable ones.
Millennials don’t like job hopping as much as stereotypes suggest: a 2016 Manpower Group survey found that 87 per cent said security was a priority when looking for employment – second only to money (92 per cent). And when they do leave their roles, it’s less a matter of wanderlust than dissatisfaction. If they don’t feel like there’s scope to develop their skills and career, they won’t feel challenged. They don’t want to slot into a prefabricated role.
Smart employers will thus offer flexible training initiatives. If you take an a la carte approach to career development, you’ll have employees who are uniquely valuable to you and your organisation. Allow them to pick their own modules and establish mentoring relationships with older colleagues and they’ll be able to put their new abilities to good use – and share them with other employees.
4) Flexible working
Speaking of flexibility, millennial employees value it in all aspects of contemporary working life. According to PwC, 64 per cent would like to occasionally work from home, and 66 per cent would like to shift their work hours when convenient. So, what reason is there to prevent them from doing so? If you run an event security company, it’s reasonable to expect employees will be present, correct, and possessed of an iron discipline.
If your team is comprised of business development managers and IT support operatives, it doesn’t make sense to constrain them. A flexible workforce is more efficient, productive, motivated and empowered. Making these options available increases retention. It doesn’t take much work – just a few minor adjustments. Rigidity, inflexibility, and rule-making for the sake of it makes your company less attractive to prospects and less likely to retain existing members of staff.
Paul Black is CEO of sales-i