5 Ways To Better Engage Millennial Employees

millennial engagement

According to Gallup research only a third of employees are engaged in the workplace which means employees, low productivity and high turnover. As a consequence, companies spend thousands of dollars searching for qualified candidates to only find out that the employees they hired a year ago, just left. While turnover can be across all different generations, one of the most difficult generations to keep are Millennials.

Why are Millennials harder to keep than other generations?

Well, first off, when using the term Millennial, I am referring to younger employees. Anywhere from 1-7 years in industry. Next, the reason why they are harder to keep they other generations is not because of their Utopia fantasy that all of them will have remote jobs working in Caribbean islands. Rather, it’s a simple concept of psychological life stages. When people are younger they usually have less obligations outside of the workplace.

Another speaker summarized it best, they suggested the perfect retention tool is ‘house and spouse’. In other words, get them external workplace obligations, a house and spouse, and that will strap down to a specific location.

While most employers can’t use arrangements marriages to make their employees stay, they often use other techniques such as increase employee engagement to make them stay. In this short post, we will be covering a few techniques that human managers and managers in companies can employ in order to keep increase the engagement of their disengagement workplace, without buying them a house in walking distance of the office.


Tip 1: Set Aside Time For One on One Meetings

If you already do this, great, but you might have to skip to the part about benefits to ensure that you are fully maximizing them.

In your workplace, if you currently do not leverage this type of meeting, you need to start. When I survey crowds across various industries, usually 30% of attendees have consistent one on one meetings. However, many companies complain that they drown in too many meetings, so most managers are likely to kick this tip to the roadside.

Unfortunately, that is where a lot of managers make a critical mistake. One on one meetings are an unequivocal way to foster employee engagement and increase employee retention. Here are a string of benefits that come with holding consistent meetings with direct reports:

  • According to Gallup Research, managers who hold consistent meetings with their direct report, the employee will be 3 times more likely to be engaged.  
  • Being able to anticipate needing to backfill for employees
  • Gather new ideas to implement.
  • Foster a closer, more trusting relationship with coworkers.


Tip 2: Get Them Out Volunteering

So how is handing out food to homeless people going to help engagement?

A lot company techniques to keep employees engaged, at times can appear extremely progressive and altruistic, yet, neglect of the sole purpose of a business – to provide goods and services. However, there has been much research done in the field of volunteering time off and how it can help employees with building stronger employee relationships. In addition, to a host of other benefits such as positive public relations, 61% of Millennials prefer to work for companies that provide volunteering opportunities.

But how exactly does volunteering help increase employee engagement? Indirectly, employees get an emotional kick helping out in the community. However, while they are helping out, they build closer relationships with their coworkers increasing future retention. After returning to the workplace, they have increased the probability that they enjoy working at the company, hence the engagement bump.

While simple, it indirectly benefits the Millennial engagement cycle.


Tip 3: Decide Together What Their Goals Should Be

The holy grail of management is harnessing the intrinsic motivation of the employee. Thomas Malone, a professor at MIT having studied attitudes and organizational behavior extensively states that “extrinsic motivators that have a short-term impact, intrinsic motivators tend to produce a lasting impact.”But that begs the question, when a manager decides what an employee should do, is that extrinsic motivation? No, so how do you then harness the motivation holy grail?

If you do the first tip in this article, you will be having consistent one on ones. During these meetings you will be able to effectively plan the necessary work for the employee to do in a given time frame period. However, instead of telling them asking what needs to be done, you ask. Novel idea, I know. By doing so, they become the owner in the process while you provide the guidance. If it is too outside of the scope in terms of time, you will need to provide some feedback to make sure that they stay on course

The simple way to implement this tip is instead of handing them work, ask them what they think they are capable of handling this week. Then, come to a compromise and hold them accountable.


Tip 4: Give Them the Lead Way to Work on Side Projects

What do Post Its, Gmail, and Google News all have in common? assorted-color printer paper in wall

The answer: they were made during times where employees had blocked off time to work on side projects.

Some of the most impactful organization ideas, were not thought of in board rooms, but by individuals who worked on them, outside of their day to day work. The ability for employees to work on their own side projects, gives them the freedom to be creative, but also significantly impact the organization in unexpected ways.

Not convinced? Have you heard of WhatsApp? If you haven’t, they were acquired by Facebook for $19 billion dollars. Turns out both of the founders of WhatsApp both applied to Facebook before founding WhatsApp and were rejected. What if Facebook decided to hire the two geniuses instead of tossing them into the rejection bin? That might have saved the company a few billion.

In Daniel Pink’s New York Times Bestseller Drive, he highlights the importance of having employees work on their own projects as a way of harnessing a new kind of motivation in the workplace. Motivation 3.0. By allowing employees to have autonomy over their actions, in the form of building a side project, they leverage autonomy which capitalizes on their intrinsic motivation. Not only does giving employees side projects a great way to develop internally innovation within a company, but it is also a cornerstone to increased Millennial engagement.


Tip 5: Let Them Focus To Reach Flow

According to a Udemy study, 70% of employees feel that they are distracted in the workplace. Another study, done by Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi states in his book, Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, that happiness is not a fixed state but can be developed as people learn how to channel the mental state flow in their lives.

And what is mandatory for flow to happen? Focus.

Unfortunately, the workplace is riddled with distractions and managers can easily contribute to its inescapable grasp. If an employee is not able to reach flow during their workday, they can easily fall into a state of mental chaos. Inevitable an employee can find work stressful versus something that they actively are engaged in.

That means giving your employees enough room to focus on their tasks, and also realizing that focus is imperative for happiness in the workplace. Sometimes there are easy answers to the workplace’s most complex Millennial engagement problems.

Jeff Butler

Jeff Butler Internationally respected speaker and consultant, Jeff Butler helps bridge generational gaps between Millennials and companies looking for their talent and patronage. Butler has quickly built his reputation as a memorable presenter with tangible solutions for attracting, retaining, and engaging Millennials as employees and customers. Within just the past three years, he has spoken at two TEDx events and multiple Fortune 500 companies such as Google, Amazon, and LinkedIn.


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