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How to Engage Millennials in your Business

Who are the Millennials?

Millennials, also known as Generation Y, are the generation with birth years ranging from the early 1980s to around 2000s. In 2014, the Pew Research Center, defined “adult Millennials” as those who were 18 to 33 years old, born 1981–1996. Yet many in this group don’t particularly think of themselves as millennials – a recent study from Pew Research found that only 40 percent of millennials even identify with the word “millennial”. Why is this?

Maybe because the term has some negative connotations, generalizations such as entitled, lazy, lacking interpersonal skills, lacking soft skills, lacking critical thinking skills, and even 59% of millennials surveyed considered their own generation to be self-absorbed. Some also say they lack brand or employer loyalty, as I recently had a business owner tell me of who his entire workforce of millennials (programmers) walked out on the same day for a better opportunity at another firm, even though the business owner invested a great deal of time and training into his team.

I recently spoke to one of my college professors and adviser, and he made the comment, “that my class (generation X) was the last one that were motivated and ready to work.”  My comment was we were “hungry”, as we were in the middle of a recession, many of us were returning to school to advance our career or expand our skillset in a desperate job market.
Although Generation Y is not hungry or lacking in opportunities, there is much more to them than the negative stereotypes they are commonly labeled with. Although their values and wants are quite a contrast to prior generations, understanding these differences will helps us engage and market to this misunderstood age group.

Engaging Millennials at Work

Since Generation Y will soon be a large percentage of the workforce, we need to find ways to integrate them with the workaholic and often cynical Generation X, so they can work together in a productive and consistent way.  Learning about their values will provide some insight on how to attract and retain millennials to work hard for your business.

  • 64% of them say it’s a priority for them to make the world a better place.
  • 72% would like to be their own boss. But if they do have to work for a boss, 79% of them would want that boss to serve more as a coach or mentor.
  • 88% prefer a collaborative work-culture rather than a competitive one.
  • 74% want flexible work schedules.
  • And 88% want “work-life integration,” which isn’t the same as work-life balance, since work and life now blend together inextricably.*
*Intelligence Group study from Forbes.com.

So as a business owner, and ultimately boss to your millennial employees, you may have to make adjustments in your business plan to adjust to their needs. Here are some ideas:

  • Be patient. Instead of just assigning them task, you may need to show them with hands-on and visual instruction. Be patient and be willing to show them a few times before they are confident with that particular task. Be flexible on how they can complete the task so they are allowed to be creative and add their own unique flare.
  • Be positive. Give lots of encouragement and positive reinforcements when they show initiative and critical thinking skills. Show them you are open to suggestions and value their opinion. When you catching them doing something good, offer praise and show appreciation, as this is more productive than critiquing them when they make a mistake.
  • Be giving. Showcase the community outreach and charitable side of your business, for those feel-good values they’re looking for. Get them involved in your outreach efforts, pay employees for the day a few times a year to volunteer at local charities.
  • Be flexible. The new phrase “work life integration,” is where professionals have to blend what they do personally and professionally in order to make both work. How is this defined for Millenials? “They’re on Facebook talking to their friends at work and answering business emails when they leave the office.”  So make it easier for them to do this, allow them to accomplish a fair of amount of life activities during work, and give them remote access from home so they can work after hours.
  • Be Open Minded. Millennials want to feel they have an impact in the companies they work for. So listen to their feedback, be open to their ideas and experiment with their suggestions by implementing them in a safe, exploratory way. And if their ideas pan out, show appreciation in words and deeds and give credit where credit is due.
  • Reward loyalty.  Give incentives for loyalty, with raise increases, employee luncheons, promotions and gifts such as certificates, gift cards, or custom gifts that showcase the years’ anniversary of employment. Praise them on social media and your company website, where they are likely to share and likewise promote your brand.

Just as in any generation, the members of your team want to feel appreciated, have a comfortable and flexible work environment and be appreciated for their contributions. If you work hard to make your team happy, your business’ brand will be enhanced with loyal, competent and hard-working employees.


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