Power & Purpose Blog

Innovative Strategies for Millennial Employee Engagement

By 2025, Millennials will represent 75% of the world’s workforce and already represent the largest segment of the U.S. workforce. The Deloitte Millennial Survey indicates that only 28% of Millennials feel that their current organizations are making “full use” of the skills they currently have to offer. The growing numbers of Millennials in the workplace and the clear gap between their potential and current level of engagement confirms that organizations need innovative strategies to address millennial engagement.

There is a strong social component to employee engagement – and Millennials are extremely social. Gallup ignited controversy with a particular question in their Q12 survey when they asked “Do you have a best friend at work?” While the question may have seemed too personal and out of place in a work environment, it produced results that couldn’t be dismissed. The survey found that the employees who reported having a best friend at work were motivated and engaged; 43% more likely to report having received praise or recognition for their work in the last seven days and 37% more likely to report that someone at work encouraged their development. The Deloitte study complements the Gallup survey – and specifies that supporting Millennials ambitions and professional development with mentors is a successful retention strategy. In the study, six in ten Millennials are currently benefitting from having somebody to turn to for advice. Whether in the form of best friend or mentor, these results indicate the power and importance of personal relationships in our workplace teams and their positive impact on employee engagement.

Screen Shot 2016-04-01 at 7.54.58 PMFostering loyalty in employees is about empowerment delivered with authenticity. If salary or other financial benefits are removed from the equation, Millennials value their work/life balance over career progression. Reebok for example, tapped into Millennials’ need for authentic engagement and work/life balance by converting one of their warehouses into a CrossFit center exclusively for their employees. The CrossFit center was a success because it helped to build engagement on multiple levels – Reebok no longer simply sold a lifestyle, its employees lived it. Empowering Millennial employees as stakeholders in the company’s success benefits organizations top and bottom line.

Company culture can also foster loyalty. Zappos online shoe store regularly shows up on Best Place to Work lists, largely because of their rigorous and scrupulous hiring practices designed to onboard and retain only the right candidates. Applicants who pass the lengthy interview process, including numerous phone and in-person interviews, are asked to attend lunch and happy hour events to see if they’re a good fit with the Zappos “family” and culture. After four weeks of training, new hires are made an unconventional offer: $3000 to leave! Although 2-3% of trainees take the offer and leave—those who stay feel even more invested in the company and are the right cultural fit for Zappos.

The premise of engagement is to build employees into productivity powerhouses— and the combination of Millennials and their affinity for technology is a powerful asset. To start, 75% of Millennials would like more opportunities to work remotely and think it will boost their productivity, while 88% want to start and finish work at the times they choose. Interestingly, a company called FullContact achieved greater productivity by turning both of these concepts upside down. FullContact offers each of their employees $7,500 to go on vacation every year. The rules to get the money were simple – employees had to actually go on a real vacation, were not allowed to work while on vacation and were forced to disengage – no calls, email or social media updates. Surprisingly, the paid vacation resulted in optimized productivity at work. Employees who knew they were going to be disconnected empowered their direct reports to make decisions, documented the work they were doing more carefully so that others could understand it while they were gone, and routinely posted to the Company Wiki to share knowledge. FullContact’s innovative and upside down approach to increase efficiency is supported by the finding that being held accountable doesn’t reduce loyalty or satisfaction for Millennials.

One of the most successful ways organizations engage employees and promote teamwork is by doing cause work— and Millennials expect and actively participate in volunteer programs. According to the 2015 Millennial Impact Report, 55% of those Millennials who heard about cause work in the interview, said the company’s involvement with causes helped persuade them to take the job. In 2014, the report states that 44% of Millennial employees volunteered their skills and talents through their company to benefit a cause and in 2015, 79% of those who volunteered felt they made a positive difference.

In fact, our blog on SPARKing employee engagement through social impact initiatives details how companies use purpose-based impact to attract and retain Millennial talent. Contact us to see how we can help you engage your Millennial workforce.

Maggie & Hector

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