Diversity Friends Connection Global Communication Concept

Connecting with Your Millennials

Millennials are a force to be reckoned with in the current workplace. One of the characteristics of this generation is that they are easily distracted. That is why many employers are asking themselves the question how to connect with their millennials. In this post we will discuss some of the ways to make sure your millennials are engaged and you can benefit from their added value to the company.

1. Give Millennials the Learning Opportunities and Responsibility they Seek

Millennials are used to trying out many different things to see what works and what doesn’t. It is only when given the responsibility to actually try and fail that they are able to learn. Without the opportunity to gain experience from their actions, Millennials -like other generations- will lose interest quickly.

Give your Millennials the responsibility they seek and expect great results. By embracing delegation and encouraging experimentation, organizations can explore more creative new options. Additionally, people will also naturally develop a more analytical approach where the additional data and information generated by these experiments will be considered and discussed. This is a key to a good Learning Organization as well: it needs to learn from good data and experiences. Millennials, and all employees can operate in a more entrepreneurial and creative atmosphere. That is a benefit for them, as well as for your organization, which will be more nimble and adaptive in the face of change.

2. Provide Ample Opportunity to Collaborate

As a social generation, collaborating and brainstorming together is second nature for Millennials. This has been emphasized in school, from playing nice together in kindergarten to joint projects in college. This is good for organizational tasks when creative solutions are required, or when the issue spans departments, functions, or geographies. More cross-pollination creates more motivation, knowledge-sharing, and collaboration, by way of breaking down barriers.

Leverage your Millennials by encouraging the formation of teams and making sure they contain diversity in background, geography, and skills, and–yes, generations. This is an area where Millennials can model good idea-sharing and teamwork for others in the organization.

3. Allow Millennials to use Their Own Technologies and Tools — and Learn from Them

A very clear characteristic of the Millennial generation is that they grew up with technology. In their personal lives, they use many different technologies in terms of wearables, and use different tools to handle different tasks (think Chartio, G Suite, Dropbox, Wunderlist, Evernote, etc.). Allow your employees to work with the technologies they are already using, or already own, such as laptops, smartphones, or even smart watches. Enabling them to use what they are familiar with and use constantly will make it easier and more attractive for them to work on these devices.

Furthermore, being so used to switching between different tools to use the most appropriate one for each task at hand, they will want to do this in the workplace as well. Having to use outdated computer programs or technologies will not bode well with Millennials, as they know there are better tools out there that will help them deal with matters much more effectively and efficiently. Allowing them to choose their own tool will help your company become more efficient, and colleagues surrounding these millennials might learn a thing or two themselves.

4. Recognize Flexible and Remote Work as a Valuable Development

Working flexibly has become more commonplace and, with an increasing share of Millennials in the workforce, it is becoming a hygiene factor for organizations. And with current technologies and tools mentioned in the previous point, it is by no means a hurdle for organizational processes. Working from home, be it on occasion or by default, can easily be accommodated by collaborative online tools such as Slack or Github, or simply by email. With most communication within companies and between company and clients taking place online, flexible working fits nicely in this picture.

Hesitance some employers still have with respect to remote work is largely based on misconceptions that have been debunked over time. A great additional benefit of allowing flexible work is that your company can seek talent in a larger geographic area, allowing for better employees to surface. Furthermore, online projects require teamwork and may thus require even more effective communication, planning, task division and coordination than in traditional work settings. A consecutive by-product of your flexible working policy is the development of these valuable skills on a large scale.

5. Give Lots and Lots of Feedback — and Be Prepared to Collect some Yourself

Millennials are used to receiving feedback on everything they do (and quickly). Whether it was in school or at home, everything they did was observed and either given applause or met with criticism–in real-time. They are used to this, in fact, they yearn for it. One could label this a type of neediness, but most organizations could benefit from a lot more and more immediate feedback. A shift to greater feedback will help your organization make changes more quickly, and also turbocharge the learning and progression of your people.

Leverage your Millennials by setting expectations for more frequent feedback. Reinforce the principle that feedback is best when nearly immediate. It should be done after major projects and events, and also after key meetings and workshops. From a management point of view, this requires a shift to a mentoring approach rather than a task-management approach. Your Millennials will appreciate this, as will nearly all employees, as your organization and people grow together.

The impact of increased feedback can be boosted greatly if there is also an increase in open vertical communication. Millennials are quite anti-hierarchical and focus on equality and collaboration over organizational levels and protocols. An open mode of communication comes naturally to Millennials – they are used to being asked for their opinions by peers, subordinates, and superiors, and are used to offering their opinions even without invitation. One of the biggest reasons Millennials quit is that they are asked for their opinions but do not feel that the opinions are heard or acted upon.

While the Millennial approach of offering opinions can be seen as overly confident, it does represent a bias towards action and can set in motion more thought and input from lower levels of your organization. This is a democratizing force that opens up more learning opportunities, and gives high-potential individuals a chance to distinguish themselves and come to the attention of company leaders.