Engagement | January 9, 2014

The Truth About Engaging Millennials

Generation Y-ers have become a force to be reckoned with in the business world, and no other workplace demographic has been subject to more analyses, surveys, and speculation in recent years. In early 2013, Time published a widely circulated article called “The Me Me Me Generation,” which purported that Millennials are used to being rewarded for nothing, have little loyalty to organizations, and their technology-obsessed attitudes make them difficult to engage. The article even went so far as to insinuate that most if not all of Generation Y was suffering from a narcissistic personality disorder epidemic brought on by their “sheltered” upbringings.

This has all put a stigma on Millennials as being difficult to engage, but in reality they are not that much different than any other generation when it comes to engagement levels. They are simply another unique workforce demographic that requires a specific engagement strategy. So how do you best engage a Millennial? Here are a few tips:

Be Aware of Key Concerns

In an extensive survey by Robert Half International, Gen Y-ers were polled on what their top workplace concerns are. Surprisingly, salary and career advancement don’t even make the list. In order of importance, the top three concerns are working for a manager they can respect and learn from, working with people they enjoy, and having a decent work/life balance. If your Millennial workers aren’t getting this type of vibe from your company, engagement levels may suffer.

Provide Regular Feedback

Millennials were raised in the era of instant communication, so they will look for more involvement with their bosses and more timely critiques of their work. In fact, only 10 percent of Millennials are comfortable communicating with their bosses only once a week—most want daily feedback. Even if it’s a simple “Great job!” at the end of the day, constant feedback is what fuels Generation Y’s desire to achieve more in the workplace.

Have a Conversation

Greg Petro, retail analyst and frequent Forbes contributor, has perhaps the simplest solution for engaging Millennials: “…if companies want to know what Millennials want, they need to engage in a dialogue with them. It’s a conversation.” An unfortunate side effect of all the Gen-Y hype is that they become stereotypes rather than individuals. If you are truly lost as to how to engage a Millennial, don’t hesitate to open an honest dialogue and get to the root of their personal concerns.

Resistance or rebukes toward the incoming generations by elder generations has been going on for over a century, and the accusation of being the “Me” generation has not only been leveled at Gen Y, but the Gen X-ers who came before them, and the Boomers that came before them, and so on. At the end of the day, Millennials, Gen-Xers, and Boomers all want the same basic things from their careers: some respect, some recognition, and a manageable work/life balance. Is that so much to ask?

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