Millennials have long been a challenge for leaders who have been seeking to improve engagement and productivity in the workplace. With a preference for transparency, direct dialogue, better work-life balance, the millennials have challenged established organizational practices like no generation before them.
Now as the millennials take on managerial roles at the workplace, organizational leadership has to come up with strategies to better engage with them. Here are five tips based on what we at Kwench have learned from working with hundreds of companies on their employee engagement programs.
Tip 1: Listen Closely to your Millennial Managers.
Millennials are more candid at voicing their opinions, and they don’t necessarily seek anonymity to do so. Even in cultures where the power distance is higher as in India, the millennials are more likely to state their stand on issues upfront. Neither do they hesitate to show dissatisfaction by walking out of the organization. Surprisingly unlike previous generations, millennials don’t seem to change their approval of the organization as they move up the ladder (unless something changes fundamentally to alter their perception). Companies thus must institute mechanisms like open collaboration and communication platforms that adequately capture the opinions of the millennial managers and the vox millennia must be listened to.
Tip 2: Promote a culture of equality.
Studies have shown that millennials as a generational cohort demonstrate far higher levels of sensitivity to inequality than any of their predecessors. Managers in this generation like to win like anyone else, but they don’t necessarily agree to ‘win at all costs.” To better engage with managers of both genders from this generation, the workplace must be seen as one that is fair and equitable in all matters ranging from job allocations, pay, and promotions.
Tip 3: Get the employer branding right.
The millennial generation has proven to be one of the most astute and conscious generations when it comes to employer brand. One study shows that millennials who are proud to tell their friends and families about where they work are almost 20 times more likely to have an extended career with the company. Companies must thus use all means at their disposal to promote their brand internally to the employees as well. Technology platforms today let companies customize layouts and encourage employer branding in ways that were previously not possible. It is time for HR to take a page out of the Marketing team’s playbook and better engage with their ‘clients’ – the employees.
Tip 4: Leadership has to Walk the Talk
The millennials have demonstrated time and again that they prefer transparency over hierarchy. For millennial managers to be convinced of the direction the company is headed and thus to be able to better engage with their teams – they need to see authenticity from the leadership. In short, leaders now have to ‘Walk the Talk.’ When leadership tells their millennial managers that ‘they care,’ they better mean it. Research has shown that Millennials respond well to leaders who show a genuine interest in them.
Some of the questions most often asked of leaders by the millennial managers are:
What makes our company unique?
What makes us different and what do we do that will make us win ethically?
Why does leadership seem to say one thing and do another?
When the going gets tough, how do we stick to our stated principles?
Honest answers to these are the minimum threshold leadership needs to cross to convince Millennial managers to better engage further on with their teams.
Tip 5: Leverage Technology to facilitate bi-directional conversations
Millennials don’t like very much to be ordered around. They prefer to participate in conversations around topics, even if some of those are contentious and uncomfortable ones. Moreover, as a generation, they believe far lesser in power distance from the top management. As millennials move into management roles, they are increasingly showing a preference for platforms that enable them to receive real-time and transparent feedback not just from their superiors but also from their team members. Technology platforms like Instapat, today empower companies to get those conversations going seamlessly. This generation has been referred to as the ‘digital natives,’ subjecting them to formal, hierarchical unidirectional/top-down communication isn’t going to do much towards engaging them.
To sum up, I think the most uncomplicated framework leaders can use to better engage with their millennial managers is the one question asked by author Simon Sinek in his book ‘Start with Why’:
“Very few people or companies can clearly articulate WHY they do WHAT they do. By WHY I mean your purpose, cause or belief – WHY does your company exist? WHY do you get out of bed every morning? And WHY should anyone care?”