Opportunities to learn and grow are the single most important things millennials are looking for at work, according to Gallup.
Such opportunities are uniquely important drivers of retention among millennials compared to other generations, and also promote engagement and ultimately performance, said Dr Jim Harter, chief scientist of Gallup’s international workplace management and wellbeing practices.
“Organisations need to do a much better job providing opportunities in the workplace to learn and grow that are meaningful to millennials,” said Harter.
A recent Gallup research report into millennials in the workplace found that they are the least engaged generation in the workforce; with only 29 per cent of millennials are engaged (meaning they are emotionally and behaviourally connected to their job and company).
Another 16 per cent of millennials are actively disengaged, meaning they are more or less out to do damage to their company.
The majority of millennials (55 per cent) are not engaged, leading all other generations in this category of workers.
“Not engaging millennial workers is a big miss for organisations,” said the How Millennials Want to Work and Live report.
“The millennial workforce is predominantly ‘checked out’ – not putting energy or passion into their jobs.
“They are indifferent about work and show up just to put in their hours.”
“Many millennials likely don’t want to switch jobs, but their companies are not giving them compelling reasons to stay”
“They feel indifferent about their job and company – and indifferent and entitled are not synonymous,” the report said.
“Many millennials likely don’t want to switch jobs, but their companies are not giving them compelling reasons to stay.
“When they see what appears to be a better opportunity, they have every incentive to take it.”
While millennials can come across as wanting more and more, the report said the reality is that they just want a job that feels worthwhile – and they will keep looking until they find it.
“Not all millennials are job hoppers looking for fun and informal work environments,” said Harter.
“It turns out that fun and informal work environments are some of the least attractive things to millennials in a job opportunity, and millennials who are engaged in their work do not tend to be job hoppers.”
He said organisations need to understand exactly what millennials are looking for in a job and engage their current millennial employees to reduce turnover.
“Fun and informal work environments are some of the least attractive things to millennials in a job opportunity”
The relationship between manager and employee also represents a vital link in performance management.
As is often the case, communication is crucial for that relationship to succeed, and the report found that millennial workers are more engaged when their managers provide frequent and consistent communication and feedback.
Forty-four per cent of millennials who report that their manager holds regular meetings with them are engaged, while only 20 per cent of millennials who do not meet regularly with their manager are engaged.
“Ongoing conversations and feedback are particularly important to millennials, probably because they grew up in a very digitally connected age with a continuous flow of information at their fingertips,” said Harter.
“Turns out millennials want to be held accountable and engagement is highest when millennials are able to meet with their boss at least once per week – daily check-ins are even better.
“Organisations need managers to be coaches and to do a better job creating that continuous flow of information millennials are accustomed to experiencing outside of the workplace, by engaging in ongoing conversations and delivering regular feedback,” he said.
“Engagement is highest when millennials are able to meet with their boss at least once per week”
Regular meetings and consistent feedback pay dividends not only in engagement, but also in performance, the research report found.
Employees who meet regularly with their manager generate higher performance for their team and company.
They are also more likely to agree that they regularly receive recognition and praise, that someone cares about them as people and that someone cares about their development.
“Effective feedback is rooted in a few essential tenets; chief among them is frequency,” said the report.
“The more conversations managers have with their employees, the more engaged their employees become.”
But Gallup found that only 21 per cent of millennials and 18 per cent of non-millennials meet with their manager on a weekly basis.
The majority of employees say they meet with their manager as infrequently as less than once a month (56 per cent for millennials and 53 per cent for non-millennials).
“A high employee turnover can result in workflow disruption and productivity decline”
Rob van Es, the COO at employee satisfaction and job referral company REFFIND, also said there is a tendency among millennials to stay in jobs for much shorter periods than their predecessors.
This trend in high staff turnover can cost companies significant time and energy unless they find new ways to engage this key demographic, said van Es.
“High turnover rates can be costly for organisations for a variety of reasons,” said van Es.
“Firstly, there’s the time and expense of finding, hiring, and training new talent.
“There is also the cost that comes from losing knowledge and experience.
“A high employee turnover can result in workflow disruption and productivity decline,” said Van Es, who outlined eight steps to keeping millennials more engaged at work and reducing turnover:
1. Establish a foundation of fair work practices
Promoting fairness and equal opportunity can help generate a culture in which engaged employees want to work on challenging projects, growing their careers while helping to advance the company.
2. Design employee engagement initiatives for both the company and employee
The benefits gained from employee engagement programs can be optimised if they are designed with both the company and the employee in mind.
Ensuring employees have an enjoyable experience when participating in engagement activities can help to maximise results.
3. Recognise everybody’s achievements
It’s important to recognise the achievements of staff members whose accomplishments may be less visible than frontline employees.
Team lunches, thank you cards or post-it notes, and verbally thanking employees are effective ways to recognise and appreciate positive employee contributions.
4. Ensure employees know the value of their contribution
Employees who clearly understand the importance of their individual contributions are more likely to feel more appreciated by, and engaged, with their employer.
5. Reward and incentivise excellence
Effective work incentives are not always monetary, as there are many alternative ways to reward staff for great work.
It’s important to avoid a one-size-fits all approach when it comes to incentive strategies.
Creating a quarterly awards event which showcases the achievements of employees who regularly excel can be a fun and motivating way to reward staff and boost morale.
6. Make sure employees understand the business and its brand
The more time and energy employers invest in making sure their workers really understand the company and its brand, the greater the alignment between worker and employer will be.
Regular training and communication between management and employees emphasising the goals and objectives of the business can help achieve this.
7. Walk the talk when it comes to leadership
If company leaders want engaged, positive, passionate, and energised employees, it’s important that they demonstrate these qualities themselves.
8. Genuinely seek opinions and ideas
Asking employees for their ideas and feedback is a valuable contributor to great engagement. It’s important to follow these up with actions to leverage employees’ ideas and ensure they feel heard and understood.
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