How to engage your Millennial Employees

Like it nor not, Millennials make up the largest generation in the Canadian and U.S. workforce. Born in 1981 to 1996, Millennials can be difficult to manage and are often characterized as over-confident and unreliable workers. As a Millennial myself, I know my working style has unintentionally caused frustration amongst our office staff, which is predominantly made up of Gen Xers and Baby Boomers. As your Legacy employees retire, Millennials will start to take on more responsibility within your organization. Don’t discount their potential. Here are my top tips on how to engage your Millennial employees to ensure a successful working dynamic.

Communication is Key

Have you noticed Millennials love to multi-task? Though multi-tasking is proven to be ineffective, Millennials love to think they can successfully listen in meetings while sending emails and text messages. To combat this, communicate your expectations for model behaviour ahead of time and let your employees know why this is important for your business’s success. For example, consider outlining the ‘dos and don’ts’ of phone etiquette in your employee contracts or recite a ‘communication code of conduct’ before each meeting. Millennials don’t intend to offend when they’re on their phone 24/7, and providing expectations ahead of time can prevent feelings of resentment or frustration later.

Tell them what’s in it for them.

Millennials thrive in working environments where they feel like they’re constantly growing and can quickly become disengaged when they’re not. If this happens, acknowledge it as an opportunity to give one of your Millennial employees a new project or challenge. When you own a small business, there are infinite possibilities to ask for help with different business functions. Does this individual have a passion for people and Human Resources? Ask them to review your current interview process. Are they passionate about marketing? Ask them to help you with your social media strategy. Walk the floor regularly to learn your team’s interests so you’ll be ready to suggest projects before they have time to get bored!

They love feedback

Millennials are obsessed with self-improvement and self-optimization. We want to get real-time feedback to know how we can improve the next time. In small business, it’s difficult to schedule re-occurring frequent feedback sessions, so communicate how and how often feedback will be given. To cut down on scheduled feedback sessions you can also enroll other team members to help. Create a ‘kudos’ or ‘wins’ box and encourage team members to submit anonymous praise when an employee goes above and beyond. Alternatively, you might consider setting up ‘goal planning’ sessions every quarter where employees can post the goals they want to achieve in their career and personal lives.

Company culture matters

We often think our businesses are too small to have a well-defined company culture. Yet, many start-ups with three or four employees have hundreds of potential candidates wanting to work for them. Company culture starts with having company core values and your organization’s purpose or ‘why’. Why do we get up every morning to support individuals with their fabricare needs? Whether it’s to save customers’ time, or ensure there is a sustainable cleaning solution in the marketplace, make sure it’s known. Millennials are engaged in roles that sync up to an over-arching purpose and will feel more passionate about their role if they understand the bigger picture. Don’t know your why? Check out Simon Sinek’s famous Ted Talk to get started.

Mentoring, more than management

Millennials like to think of themselves as independent and resourceful. We grew up in an era where most questions could be answered with a quick Google search. This makes us stubborn when it comes to management and authority. Simply put, we prefer a Mentor instead. To do this, consider shifting your organization’s leadership mentality from focusing on results to one of growth and continuous improvement. Though results are important in the short term, Millennial employees who feel respected will thrive in the long term and ultimately this is a winning strategy for everyone.

Working with team members who span different ages and generations will always have its challenges, but never discount the opportunities that come with diversity of thought and skillset.

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