Engaging Millenials at Work

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Millenials are the biggest part of the workforce now and this will remain the trend for another decade. Gallup study shows that the millenials are the least engaged with their employers. The attrition rates is higher for them compared to the other categories of employees. And the same trend continues when we compare these against the data a decade ago. Though attrition rate is an outcome of a complex interplay of several factors, we cannot deny the fact that today’s youth have significantly different perspective than what their managers had ten years ago. Needless to say that the managers are at a loss while forming policies which impact the young employees in an organization and implementing them.

What differences?

Firstly, they have not seen a world without computers, telephones, television and real-time communication systems. They are well-informed of various events in the world and have the advantage of forming their own opinions on a wide range of subjects. Secondly, due to the economic development in the most parts of the world, many of them have had the luxury of not struggling for the basic necessities such as food, shelter, basic education and healthcare. Hence, they are able to go beyond fulfilling the basic needs and explore the higher order of social needs. This is giving them the avenues of finding the sense of purpose behind various events around them, be it music, art, sport, governance, technology, environment, ethics, leadership and so on. They are able to develop and apply a moral compass while making a choice. Last but not the least, the social changes such as nuclear families, no siblings, demanding work environments for the parents have delivered their impact as well. Many millenials grew up in a social environment which had high levels of competitiveness, aggressiveness, determination and goal-orientation. All of this shows up at work in the form of hyper-competitiveness, silo-working and need for quick results.

Can you really engage them?

It is a tough ask for the manager to relate to the way of thinking of his or her team members. Most of them know a lot about many things and believe that they know what is the ‘right’ way of being managed. Most of the time, they know what appeals to them and hence, they decide if they want to work just for the financial earnings or they relate to the bigger purpose of the firm and hence, they love going to work each day. Given this context, it is clear that the employee decides the terms of engagement and the manager tries to adapt to the situation and fulfil their needs. It’s Servant leadership by design!

What can work?

Firstly, the leader has to be aware that the bunch of employees is different in terms of knowledge, belief, style and aspirations from what it was ten years ago. They have strong perspectives, immense knowledge and deep beliefs about many things in life. Secondly, she has to discover these beliefs and think how to align with them in full or in parts. Last, but not the least, a workable model has to be worked out so that the outcome at organization level is positive.

What could work well is to create multiple platforms where the employees get to discover and explore the organization severally, discuss openly about the status quo, involve them in crafting the future. It is intent listening, adapting the style, designing the work in such a way that the employees find it interesting as well as inviting enough to particpate in the overall purpose of the organization.

This is not very easy to do; neither it is a common practice for a company with 5000 people to be able to involve all the employees in these discussions, debates and workshops. However, the mould has to break and the new order has to be established!

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