The Millennial Report: 3 Ways to Engage and Retain Your New Generation of Employees

ITA Group

I am a millennial, officially entering the workforce in one year. It’s clear to me that the workplace needs to adapt to meet the needs of my generation.

As an intern at ITA Group, I’ve been able to spend the summer working alongside Baby Boomers, Gen Xers, and fellow millennials. After working with all of these generations, it has become apparent that millennials are motivated differently and require different things to stay engaged at work, and when we are not motivated and engaged, we tend to make a career change quickly.

A study conducted by the Education Advisory Board suggests that millennials will job hop nearly 20 times in our career, almost twice as much as our baby boomer managers. It is estimated that millennial turnover alone costs the U.S. economy $30.5 billion dollars annually.

A study by Gallup found when employees are motivated and engaged at work profitability increases by 21 percent, sales productivity by 20 percent, and output quality by 40 percent.

But how do you actually motivate us as millennials to reap these benefits?  Here are 3 suggestions on how to engage your millennials (like me) and retain us for years to come.

1. Form Millennial Task Groups

Group of millennial employees working on a project

Millennials love to work in groups. During college and post-graduate studies, projects are completed in groups and there’s a lot of collaboration between team members to accomplish a common goal. Millennials are seeking that same level of collaboration in the workplace. We seek membership to a tribe and want to feel like we are included. We enjoy having others around us even while working on projects individually and we are confident having collaboration across departments to get our work finished.

By assigning millennials to a task group when we join a company, doors are opened to collaboration. The task groups should be assigned a project that takes a look at the company we currently work for. The end goal is for the group is to provide recommendations to management on how to improve current business functions. This allows managers to receive millennials’ insight on how they are currently performing and potentially receive a recommendation that can spark change within the company.

For millennials, this task group allows us to feel immediately engaged with the company and that upper management considers our opinions. 

2. Weekly 1:1 Meetings with Manager

A millennial employee in a performance review with their boss

Millennials want a social work environment. Coming out of college where work and social experiences are constantly pushed together through study groups, clubs, and dorm life, we have an expectation that the workplace will be the same way.

While there is certainly a social aspect of work it is often not quite what millennials expect when we arrive after graduation. One way to facilitate a productive and social work environment is to have weekly one-on-one meetings between millennials and their managers.

Peter Martel of the Harvard Business School stated, “All of the research I’ve seen over the years about employee engagement really points, first and foremost, to the relationship with one’s immediate supervisor.”

Millennials especially value having a relationship with their managers because when we come into the workplace, we want training, guidance and a pathway to increased confidence. These meetings are beneficial for millennials because we are able to have our voice heard in an open and safe environment and they can receive immediate feedback on our work and ideas. Managers receive a great deal of value from these meetings as well. One-on-one environments can help managers determine the strengths and interests of their millennial employees which can help determine which projects will be most engaging for us to work on. Having this regular collaboration makes millennials feel that our managers care about the projects that we are working on and provides an opportunity for managers to direct and mentor their younger employees.

3. Give Millennials Control over “When” and “Where” they Work

Millennial employee working remotely from an outdoor location

Remember when you first showed up to college? Remember that first feeling of freedom? Remember loving it? Well millennials love that feeling too and we want it in the workplace. We view traditional office space as uptight and restrictive and prefer a more laid back office setting which allows flexible hours and the ability to work in a variety of environments.

Related: Find out how to motivate millennials in today’s experience economy.

According to Bentley University, 77% of millennials say having flexible work hours would increase workplace productivity. We also know that we are capable of producing quality work in a variety of environments. We do not buy-in to sitting at the same desk for eight hours a day to get our work done. We want know what the deadline is and then be trusted that we will get the work done without constantly being checked up on.

A recent Drake University graduate said, “Professors give me assignments and deadlines. How I complete those tasks is entirely up to me. They don’t say, ‘You will write this paper between 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. while sitting at this assigned library table.” Why isn’t this logic being applied to the workplace?”

Different people work better in different environments. By allowing your employees to move around and complete work in a setting that is best for them, the quality of work will increase and so will their happiness. For millennials, work is no longer somewhere they go, it is something we do. In a flexible workplace, we will feel more comfortable in our work environment leading to higher engagement and retention levels.

Change can be a real challenge, especially if things have been done the same way for a long time, but it’s necessary for the workplace to change to match the needs of this new generation. Millennials act, think and do things differently than generations before them. That doesn’t mean we should be dismissed! Small but powerful workplace changes like those above will bring the best out of millennial employees, and lead to increased workplace productivity for many years to come.

Motivating employees from diverse backgrounds spanning different generations isn’t easy and it’s not a one-size-fits-all approach. Check out this SlideShare to learn how to align and motivate your people through an expert blend of intrinsic and extrinsic motivations.

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