Millennials are entering the workforce by the thousands every day. This generation is more creative and innovative compared to generations before which can provide your company with many benefits if you are able to capitalize on their values. Millennials are growth-oriented, more entrepreneurial, and also the most diverse generation ever made up of 44% minorities.
It’s important to be prepared and start the process of transformation sooner rather than later. Let’s explore some of the ways you can make your workplace more Millennial-friendly.
1. Break the myth: it’s not about perks.
Successful companies usually have great perks for the employees that work there. However, it’s not ping pong tables, catered lunches, or company happy hours that keep Millennials at a company. These perks may draw them in, but they most certainly won’t make them stay. The bottom line is that you have to have a good company culture that shows through in the workplace.
The workplace should be a positive environment where employees feel a sense of camaraderie. That’s what keeps Millennials happy and continuing to work at your company. A good work environment beats out free stuff any day and is a long-lasting solution to improving the employee experience.
2. Avoid calling Millennial employees ‘Millennials’.
With all the negativity surrounding the word Millennial, it’s no surprise this generation balks at being labeled as such. The label precedes them before they take the job and follows them around once they’re there. Many Millennials feel that they’ll be judged unfairly based on stereotypes rather than their actual work.
Here’s the rule – you can use ‘Millennial’ when you’re discussing something about them collectively or when you’re generalizing (like this article!). When you’re talking to an employee individually, don’t use the M-word. This is especially important when giving critiques. Make sure employees know you’re basing your comments on their aptitude and performance, not their generation.
3. Make work about more than just working.
There is nothing more powerful than a company that gives back to the community. Corporate social responsibility is one of the top deciding factors when Millennials choose a place to work. It can’t just be lip service either – programs, where employees can donate part of their paycheck each month to a charity, don’t cut it for Millennials. They want to be part of the action, directly making an impact.
There are many ways to improve your corporate social responsibility. You can host fundraisers, organize a volunteer project, or participate in a walk to raise funds to name a few. For large companies with global partnerships, see if there’s a local branch that you can support. Consider supporting more than one charity if possible. The more your company truly gives back, the more engaged your Millennial employees will be.
4. Master the onboarding process.
Onboarding can be one of the most simultaneously boring and difficult things for an employee. Too often the process involves filling out dozens of forms and going through endless training on the computer, with very little human interaction. When done right, onboarding is the first step in building company loyalty. The formal training required will vary from company to company, but a full onboarding process should last for one month. This gives Millennials time to fully understand and become comfortable with their job responsibilities.
Partner Millennials with a training buddy on their first day. This can be a peer or a supervisor who can help them navigate their new job and answer questions. Give them a clear picture of their day to day responsibilities, who they’ll be reporting to, and anything they need to know relating to work policies. After they’ve completed the formal onboarding, keep up with periodic check-ins to monitor progress and enforce accountability.
5. Offer opportunities for learning and development.
Millennials are hungry to learn new skills and rank access to learning opportunities as a top employer benefit. Lack of training is the number one reason Millennials start searching for new jobs. Training can be offered in many ways, including peer to peer learning, mentoring, and formal training.
Reverse mentoring, where a Millennial becomes the mentor to a Boomer or Gen Xer, is a great way to get Millennials engaged. Millennials like sharing their knowledge as much as they like learning. They also like to know that this new knowledge will lead them to a promotion. Show them potential career paths within your company. Help them understand the steps they’ll need to take to be able to climb the corporate ladder.
6. Rethink the way you give feedback.
Millennials expect frequent feedback on how they’re doing. On-the-fly coaching needs to replace outdated performance reviews. Regular check-ins and continuous feedback helps them stay on track with their goals and allows you to address problems as they arise. This shows Millennials you’re invested in them, and in return, they’ll be more likely to engage in their work.
Constant feedback also helps you build a more accurate profile of your employees. You can track their strengths and weaknesses and see a record of their progress. When it comes time for reviews, raises, promotions, or other opportunities, you don’t have to guess or try to remember what the employees did. If any disciplinary action is needed, you have a log detailing the actions you’ve taken to refer to.
7. Recognize their accomplishments.
Millennials come from a world where most things they do are graded and everything is public. In school, their assignments were scored, and certificates and participation trophies were given out. On social media, they get instant feedback from collecting likes and followers. They’re used to having a direct measurement of their successes and failures.
Mimic this behavior at work by having a place to publicly display employee achievements. Rather than simply choosing an employee of the month, highlight specific factors. Reward employees for exceptional performance, exceeding sales goals, or going above and beyond to take care of customers. Public recognition shows that you value your employees’ hard work and celebrate their accomplishments.
8. Give them an outlet for their voice.
The most overlooked tool for figuring out what your employees want is simply asking them! Millennials like to know that their voices are being heard. They want to be part of the discussion, not an afterthought. They’ve been taught to speak up when they have an idea, and as a result of this are often rather outspoken. It’s time to bring back the office suggestion box to give them an outlet to share their thoughts.
This doesn’t mean acting on everything they suggest, but you never know what ideas a suggestion can spark. Find the balance between what’s being asked and what’s realistic for your company. Don’t hesitate to further discuss the idea with the person who suggested it to gain a better understanding. Even if the idea isn’t implemented, it shows that the leadership team values the contribution and is willing to listen.
The best thing about all of this is it doesn’t just benefit your Millennial employees, it benefits everyone. Millennials are forcing us to reevaluate workplace practices that have been in place for decades simply because that was the way things were done. Technology started this shift, but Millennials are making sure we fully address it.
Ashira Prossack is a Millennial Workplace Expert, Leadership Coach, and Speaker dedicated to bridging the generational gap and breaking down stereotypes. She helps businesses understand and engage Millennial talent, and coaches Millennials to excel and advance their careers. As a Millennial herself, Ashira is on a mission to rewrite the dialogue on generations, gender, and the future of work.