Recently business leaders have been faced with the fact that the next generation of workers, those born between 1980 and 2000, is different than their predecessors in fundamental ways. They are the first generation to have been raised in a world where the Internet has always been a thing and answers to even complex questions are only a Google search away. When compared to prior generations, they have a drastically different take on what they expect from their work experience and employer. They tend to be well educated, confident, and energetic and they have dominion over all things digital. Employeers are finding that competing for the best of these employees means changing how they think about work/life balance, remote work, compensation, career path planning, and more.
Developing employee engagement ideas is also a different exercise when applied to millennial. Here are a few old ideas with a millennial twist.
Old Idea: The suggestion box
Why it doesn’t work for millennials: Millennial simply aren’t content to hand their ideas over to someone else and wait for results. As one disappointed worker put it in the Harvard Review, “I guess I just expected that I would get to act on more of my ideas.”
Try instead: Let your employees identify problems, suggest solutions and manage the change. Certainly you’ll need structure and oversight, but how better than to help engage employees in problem solving than to let them be the architects of the solution.
Old Idea: Employee of the month
Why it doesn’t work for millennials: Well, in short, it’s lame. Millennials immediately see through the rote nature of the approach and will question what is done if no one deserves recognition or if everyone does.
Try instead: Gamification. A system of earned points and expected rewards feels familiar to millennials. They understand the concept of “leveling up” and the power of healthy competition.
Old Idea: Annual or bi-annual performance reviews
Why it doesn’t work for millennials: Studies confirm that millennial workers crave feedback on their performance, but periodic reviews are too infrequent. They want to know what you think of their work and, as with almost everything else, they want to know in real-time.
Try instead: Recognize success and address performance issues as they happen. Feedback needs to be two way, frequent and consistent. It is also important to be direct, specific, and clear with both accolades and constructive coaching.
Old Idea: Annual company picnic
Why it doesn’t work for millennials: Ok, maybe your millennial employees would like some nice fried chicken and potato salad, but they might rather build a park or teach CSS coding to disadvantaged students. As Leigh Buchanon explained in Meet the Millennials, “One of the characteristics of millennials, besides the fact that they are masters of digital communication, is that they are primed to do well by doing good. Almost 70 percent say that giving back and being civically engaged are their highest priorities.”
Try instead: Make community engagement part of your company culture by providing both individual and group opportunities to give back. Ask what causes your employees care about and find ways to support involvement.
Having a new generation of workers who see the world through a new set of eyes is a good thing. Their new take on technology, diversity, communication, and teamwork can make your organization stronger and more innovative. In exchange, however, smart leaders will carefully consider employee engagement ideas that are tailored to the expectations and desires of this new highly energetic resource.
To help get you thinking about how technology can empower your employee engagement approach, check out our new eBook: