Millennials under the microscope – 5 tips to keep them engaged

Joe Wedgwood | 21st October 2016

The sun is beginning to set on the Baby Boomers entering the twilight years of their career and rise on the Millennials who are reshaping the modern workplace.

This begs the question “Who are they?”

Expected to make up almost half of the workforce by 2020, millennials were born between the early 1980s to the early 2000s. They are referred to by researchers Neil Howe and William Strauss as “the next great generation.”

With almost half of eligible millennials going to university a staggering amount of them are now slaves to their student loans – debt and regret are therefore big concerns. According to insurance giants Aviva “more than one in three regret going to university.” This creates a sense of entitlement, where they (understandably) feel like they are owed something from the working world.

(Inhale) Millennials want to make a social impact — and therefore seek out companies that project their ideas and values. They also desire flexible work schedules, clear guidance, goal-setting, impressive offices, a sense of purpose, consistent feedback, tons of tech and varied tasks and projects. (Exhale) In a nutshell they want a lot!

Engaging millennials is clearly quite a challenge. This is evidenced by Forbes who state that “91% of millennials don’t anticipate staying at a job for more than three years.” As an employer, you may be thinking “why am I breaking my back to impress them – shouldn’t it be the other way around!?” The short answer is you must move with the times if you want to attract and retain this complex generation of workers.

The good news is there are many ways to achieve this – we have listed a few methods for you.

Turn your office into a millennial-magnet

We recently interviewed Paul Bateman, Head of Design at Studio 11 and asked him if there are any recent trends in the sector – he suggests “Interestingly there is a high demand for creating university inspired working environments. Companies are trying to attract and retain talent straight out of university and many students are used to the modern hot-desking approach that promotes flexible working.” This clearly demonstrates the efforts companies are going to in order to attract and retain millennials – are you making efforts too?

There are many different ways you can millennial-proof your office; e.g. you can install multi-functional spaces, introduce more natural light, or even build a games room which will help to boost morale and enhance the sense of community.

If table tennis isn’t your thing, then you should consider focusing on flexibility instead and redesign your office so it replicates the university atmosphere that millennials are accustomed to.  This means providing areas for collaborative tasks, open areas that are designed for socialising or eating, and quiet spaces for rest and recuperation.

By providing millennials with the choice as to where and how they want to work – you will cement a sense of worth in them and make them feel like an integral part of your team.

Ensure your tech is tip-top

It is no secret that these ‘digital natives’ are the most tech-savvy generation of our time – most of them would probably give up their legs before giving up their iPhones! Where you had a teddy thrust in your hands, they had tablets and tech from an early age.

Constant connection to the web is key for this generation who probably won’t remember what it’s like to not be connected – for them tech is more of a necessity than a job perk!

Bearing this in mind you must ensure that you showcase your technology and allow this ‘plugged in’ generation to humble you with their computer skills from the get-go. Millennials crave for innovative ways to search for solutions and shortcuts to complete their tasks – by providing them with the best tools in which to do this, you are essentially helping them to help you (kindly excuse the Jerry Maguire reference.)

Millennials enjoy using tech whenever possible and are highly connected to their various devices and social profiles – they will therefore seek out companies that embrace innovative tech. It is important to bear this in mind when you are thinking of ways to attract/retain, or keep them engaged.

Sometimes managers can be unenthusiastic to order new technology because they fear that the older generations will struggle with it. Millennials, however, will not struggle with it and if they don’t have the best tech they are likely to have wandering eyes and look for a company that does.

Make your expectations clear

Millennials are relatively new to the workplace and therefore many don’t have much knowledge on how to get to ‘the next level’ – this is where you step in.

They are continually seeking purpose in what they do for a living and want assurances that their job will help them to progress to where they want to be. For many the sense of purpose is a bigger driving force than their pay cheque, and they will seek out roles that allow them to develop and grow, or solve a problem – rather than supplement their income. Consequently, you may have to start sponsoring charities or organising meaningful events if you want to win them over.

By clearly stating your requirements and mapping out the best routes for success, you will help to lead them in the right direction – this is known as career mapping. This approach will provide a clear ‘roadmap’ that outlines how they can get from their current position to where they want to be. It will also assist you to give your young employees the sense of purpose which they crave – resulting in them foreseeing a future within your company.

Jack Cullen CEO of Modis explains how he ensures that the millennials at his company are made fully aware of what is expected of them, so they can be a success; “There has to be clear communication on where we are today, where we are going to be tomorrow and what’s expected for them to achieve. We make sure they (millennials) understand that there is a process that needs to be met and accomplishments that you need to hit in order to ascend to that realm.”

Provide real-time feedback

One of the defining traits of millennials is their impatience. Being brought up in a fast-paced, digital world where all information is accessible in a second’s notice has created a strong desire for them to be ‘in the know’ and receive constant feedback/assurances to stay engaged.

If you want to get Millennials to pull for your team, then you need to keep them in the loop about the direction your business is going in. They crave on-the-spot feedback instead of the old-fashioned system where you dish out quarterly or even annual feedback. A recent Harvard Business Review piece stated that 42% of Millennials want feedback every week. This is twice as much as other generations!

An effective way to stay on top of this is through the use of regular pulse surveys. They will allow you to collect real-time insights from your employee’s feedback which you can (and should) turn into actions. By adopting this technology, you will be able to listen and respond to the millennials feedback and action the (realistic) suggestions to keep them happy, engaged and most importantly loyal to your company.

Promote flexibility

Many young workers feel overwhelmed by their jobs, friends, families and even their hobbies – this is because they have a difficult time separating their working lives from their home lives. This leads to many of them feeling burnt out and disengaged.

Millennials expect to be able to merge their working lives with their social, this can make it difficult for them to have a clear distinction between work and play. Flexible working environments will cater to their requirements, but can also add to the problem of them having no escape from either part of their life.

To effectively tackle this, you must take matters into your own hands and enforce working schedules that ensure they have every opportunity to distance themselves from the office and stay focused – just to be clear I’m not talking about dishing out loads of annual leave – I’m suggesting that you incorporate remote working where they can work from home, a café, or even a park.

A recent study by timeware stated that “employees would be less likely to be absent from work if their employers offered flexible hours (42%) and the chance to work from home (21%).” By providing the option for them to remote-work you will allow them to recharge and de-stress. It will also help you to reclaim any time lost from long commutes.

Millennials are undoubtedly very tricky to keep engaged, but they also bend over backwards to make a difference from the first day they step into your office. If you use this blog as you would a checklist and put everything into place – you will attract and retain a generation of workers that (when engaged) will provide invaluable problem-solving and unique ways of approaching tasks that other generations couldn’t even fathom. To conclude, they’re definitely worth the investment – but you must make constant adaptations to stop their eyes from wandering.