Musings on Engaging Millennials at Work

on December 15, 2016

High school? Check.

College? Check.

Full-time employment? Check.

“I just want to be engaged,” my friends constantly say.

I ask, “What’s the rush?”

In my head, I assume it’s because they’re eager to be with the person they love, start a family, or just settle down. But, as with most assumptions, I’m way off.

“I have a job where I get to work with nice people, and it pays well; but, I really don’t love what I do. Maybe it’s because I miss the freedom of school, but I just wish I felt connected to the work I do.”

That’s what I hear, constantly, from others my age. Isn’t it amazing how you don’t seem to appreciate the homework, exams, and even the recalcitrant group work (thank you, Professor Bailey!) until it’s gone? The capriciousness of nostalgia, yes?

As a collegian, you have hope for who you will become, what you’ll do — how you can change the world for the better. Though as that childhood innocence fades away, for many, hope does too.

Engaging Millennials at Work

Recent college graduates don’t feel engaged at work. Collectively, over 70% of Gallup’s 150,000 sample answered that they don’t believe they “have the opportunity to do what they do best every day.” Brandon Busteed, executive director of Gallup Education remarked, “given that what we all expect out of college is something better, you would think that college graduates are way more engaged in careers than everybody else.” It’s a logical connection.

The vital source of success to any company is engaged employees. It starts with a supportive work environment, caring people, and opportunities for career development. But, that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

While it may seem impossible to “love work,” I urge you — it isn’t. To feel fulfilled takes an investment on both parties: the employer and the employee. Let’s focus on two influencers a company can make toward increasing employee engagement amongst its youngest group — millennials.

Hunter Hayes is right — “Wanted”

Humans have an intrinsic desire to be wanted, proud, and successful. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs reminds us that both the psychological and self-actualization tiers must be fulfilled to retain motivation. It’s important for leaders to build a culture where employees, from the boomers to the millennials feel a sense of camaraderie — feeling as if they’re a part of something bigger than they are. I can’t help but think of videos of Journey in the 80s where the entire crowd pulls out their cigarette lighters at the first melisma in Faithfully. In an instant, the crowd unites as one, embraced by the fervent force of the refrain. Why can’t it be this way at work?

If your environment allows for employees to bring the best versions of themselves to work everyday. If your environment allows employees to see how they’re making a meaningful difference. If your environment allows for employees to communicate, develop, and grow. Then, what isn’t to love after all? Do this and you’ll find yourself surrounded by engaged millennials in no time.

Avoid the Curse of Boring eLearning

eLearning? It’s not new to me, and it’s not new to others within my age group. We’ve been participating for years — often receiving content from teachers in high school, from employers at part-time jobs, or because we’ve been thrown into the pesky collegiate online course environments like Blackboard.

By the time millennials start our careers, we’re already been spoiled by top tier creative content all across the internet, and can easily weed out the bad, and hone in on the good. So, as you strategize how to improve your onboarding program, you need to consider your content. You know that PowerPoint training deck with the clip art? It isn’t doing you any favors. And the boring corporate training video will have your new hires slouching and reaching for their phone in no time flat.

Capturing an employee’s attention within the first few days – or more aptly, the first few minutes – of the job is paramount. Drive engagement with content that’s well produced, animated, short, and interactive.

In all the companies I have worked with, there is one constant motif: we want to be on the cutting edge with our customers! Being on the forefront internally is just as important (if not more so in my opinion) than being the innovator externally. How does one do that? Create learning driven by a specific set of principles. Engage your team with a diverse mix of modalities (asynchronous, synchronous, virtual) and styles (mobile, snack-sized, social, augmented, gamified, interactive, multimedia-focused).

Why does any of this this matter? Happy employees are happy people. Happy people produce happy customers. And so, if there’s ever been a time to focus on sinking the disengagement boat, it’s now. Millennials are filling up more and more cubicles with each passing day. It’s time to create a welcoming culture and reinvigorated training strategy complete with innovative technologies that focuses on engaging millennials – and every other employee for that matter – in the ways that resonate best, from day one.

I’m a part of the millennial group and am always hungry for feedback. What did I miss about engaging millennials at work? What are your experiences? Send me a note at dpfaltzgraf@rootinc.com with your thoughts.

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