Purpose above Profit: How to Attract and Engage Millennials

What Rocks the Souls of Millennials in the Workplace?

The friendship of these Millennial employees is bonded through respect, connection, and ambition.
Yuri_Arcurs / Getty Images

In 2015, Millennials became the most populous workforce demographic in the U.S. As the largest generation ever, they will have a major influence on the workplace for decades to come.

At the same time, the rise of a new generation is changing the workplace, businesses are adjusting to technology advances that have made other seismic shifts in the way people work possible, including the all remote workforce.

As you build a dispersed workforce without the physical structures that were required in the past by using new technologies, you are likely looking for management techniques that can take these new workplace realities into account.

If you manage Millennials and integrate technology effectively, you will win in the future. But doing that requires understanding what Millennials value and using technology as a force multiplier.

Defining Millennials’ Generational Traits

At 80 million strong, Millennials, like any other group, are made up of unique individuals. But as was true for the generations that preceded them, Millennials do share some generational attributes. Because they grew up with the internet, Millennials are digital natives and adept at multitasking.

The line between the personal and the professional isn’t as clearly defined for Millennials as it was for their parents.

Being a part of something bigger than themselves and finding purpose in the workplace are other hallmarks of the Millennial generation.

Proving themselves and demonstrating that they can make decisions independently are also important to Millennials.

At the same time, they are born collaborators and love working as a team. If you can develop a culture that harnesses these traits so that Millennials and others in the workplace thrive, you will find your organization ahead of the curve.

Creating a Cohesive Culture

Whether you intend it or not, a company culture will grow as your business matures, and the nature of that culture will have a direct impact on your company’s success. This is why you should proactively build a culture that upholds your organization’s values and creates a framework for its success. And accommodating workforce attributes is an important part of the mix.

To appeal to Millennials’ longing for purpose, you should define a mission and strong set of company values. But defining a mission and values is just the beginning—the next step is making sure the operation truly integrates those values and secures employee buy-in. A strong employee orientation program can help, as can ongoing reinforcement, such as frequent quizzes on values.

Creating a strong sense of connection among employees is also critical. Technology is sometimes perceived as isolating when employees work remotely, but conversely, technology can build unity and cohesion.

Telepresence technology lets far-flung teams meet as if they were in the same room, and you can deploy Millennial-friendly social media hubs and collaboration platforms that let employees work closely together and stay connected no matter where they are.

 

Developing Individuals within a “Fierce Tribe”

Once you have established a fierce tribe by cultivating a strong company culture, you’ll have a great framework for developing individuals. Providing employees with a workplace environment and culture they value makes them protective of it. This is a terrific foundation for a leadership role because the motivation for leaders is already established — and that is more than half the battle. 

As for specific techniques, pairing younger workers with older staff fosters leadership development, and it’s definitely not a one-way street. Mentor-mentee pairs can learn from each other.

The more experienced employee gains as much insight from the fresh new perspective of the mentee as the less seasoned staff member gains from the mentor’s longer experience.

Leading by example is incredibly important, too. You should never ask staff to do something you wouldn’t do yourself. And while rules are important, a sense of appropriate grace is essential too. People are unique individuals, not interchangeable units, and when you respect them as individuals and make allowances for everyday concerns that pop up, such as childcare needs and other family obligations, that builds loyalty.

Managing the “We” Generation — And Others

Perhaps because they came of age in an era in which the shortcomings of so many institutions were exposed, Millennials are famously concerned about social responsibility. Millennials are attracted to companies they perceive as a positive force for good in their communities. And Millennials enjoy participating in work-based programs that make a difference in the world.

Millennials, who are typically adept at handling personal business one minute and managing professional tasks the next, enjoy working from home. If you give them this opportunity, you are in a sense giving them back the hours each week that they would have otherwise spent commuting, so that’s a valuable gift in itself.

Millennials in many ways are ideally suited for remote work—it’s a lifestyle that can accommodate the family obligations of young parents, and it requires a comfort with technology and collaboration skills that this generation already has. But the truth is that building a great culture, sense of connection and a leadership strategy that works for Millennials resonates with employees of all ages. 

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