Egnaging millennials should be a priority of every manager and employer. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

Posted June 27, 2017 by

10 inexpensive ways managers can better engage millennials

The reason many employers struggle to recruit, retain, and engage millennials is because they don’t focus on educating and training managers on how to better engage with millennials.

In fact, a Gallup Poll titled Millennials: The job-hopping generation, found that 29% of millennials are engaged at work, 16% are actively disengaged, and 55% are not engaged.

That should be troubling for employers. After all, according to Pew Research Center analysis of the U.S. Census Bureau data, more than one-in-three American workers today are millennials (adults ages 18 to 34 in 2015). And in 2015 millennials surpassed Generation X (born between 1965 and 1984) to become the largest share of the American workforce.

So employers listen up – now, more than ever, is the time to find a way to ensure managers engage millennials. According to the Forbes article, nine tips for managing millennials, millennials want a job that provides these key factors:

  • Opportunities for learning and development
  • Balance between personal and professional life
  • Mentors, not bosses
  • Recognition
  • More than just money

In that same Forbes article, author Guido Stein, Professor of Managing People in Organizations at IESE Business School, said: “Millennials arrival in the workforce is a challenge, but also an opportunity. Managers from previous generations stand to learn more about the world we live in and to make better decisions accordingly. Millennials are here to stay: let’s make the most of it.”

So how can today’s manager make the most of it and better engage millennials? Spending money on expensive management training programs is not always the answer. But spending time ensuring each manager understands what makes millennials tick, is important – and inexpensive. Below, we list some simple strategies, and inexpensive ways, managers can better engage millennials.

Related: 10 time management skills every new manager must master

1. Engage with praise

Employees want feedbackMillennials want two things – feedback, and praise. Some old school managers may not be good at either, especially extending praise, but recognizing a job well done via a simple “nice job” or “thanks for your hard work” in an email, or team meeting goes a long way. And is free. Keep that at the top of the engagement list when engaging millennials. And start today.

Employers should strive to create a company culture that puts employees first – because happy employees simply do a better job, says Ron Heiler, Talent Acquisition Manager at Radial, a King of Prussia, PA-based company specializing in omni-channel commerce technologies and operations.

“When employers show appreciation and make it clear that each and every employee is valued, productivity increases substantially,” says Heiler.

2. Build up the employee by acknowledging employee potential

Managers can motivate and inspire employees by reminding them that they have potential, and that as they develop in their new job, they should strive to develop that potential. That keeps them focused interested in learning, taking on new projects, and feeling like they are adding important skill sets.

This can help inspire, and build confidence, of millennials.

“The intent here is to motivate the employee to want to improve by sharing what you think they could bring to the organization as they grow into their role,” says Elissa Tucker, principal research lead of Human Capital Management for APQC, a non-profit benchmarking and best practices research firm.

3. Don’t assume every millennial understands keys to communication

Generation X leaders have spent the last 20 years using email as a primary form of communication. And that’s what most companies today, still use to communicate. So it should be a no-brainer that email communication is important for staying connected and getting work done? Don’t be so sure about that.

In fact, for a lot of new grads, email is something their parents do, not them, says August Nielsen, Human Resources Director for Veterans United Home Loans, the nation’s top VA purchase loan lender and Fortune’s No. 19 Best Company to Work For Millennials. So don’t assume recent college grads know they should be checking their email for important communications – either from the company, business partners or external sources.

“If that’s how things get done in your company, make sure (Millennials) know that so you aren’t left making assumptions that they’re ignoring you when they don’t answer,” says Nielsen. “In reality it could be they don’t even know to check it.”

In other words: Make sure they know how you communicate.


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4. Weekly check-ins are a must

Check in with your millennial employees weeklyA manager may not be able to respond to every team or group email, or may miss recognizing a win or accomplishment of a millennial. So, set aside time for a weekly one-on-one meeting to check in, review projects, ask questions, ask about concerns, and motivate, encourage and inspire these employees. It’s also a time to provide constructive criticism if an employee is not meeting expectations.

“Making time for this step in the short-term will save you time in the long run,” says Tucker. “It provides the opportunity to praise accomplishments, make plans for the next improvement priority, and have honest conversations regarding whether progress is going in the right direction for both the company and the employee.”

Related: 10 ways employers can turn struggling entry-level hires into rock star employees 

5. Understand how Millennials learn – and adjust accordingly

Because so many employers implement onboarding or orientation programs, or new hire training programs, recent college grads and other millennials often feel highly-engaged when starting a job. But after a few months, the communication from management, leadership, and even peers, may slow as they get into their day-to-day duties. This can leave some millennials feeling left out. And disengaged. And their performance may start to slip.

So managers must take time to understand what may be causing the performance change, says Ed Schnedler, who oversees the call center for Veterans United Home Loans. Schnedler oversees 40 employees who take about 430,000 calls yearly from veteran homebuyers and their families 24/7 year-round. His team also manages about 30,000 social media interactions with customers and 35,000 incoming emails.

“Everyone learns differently and it may take a different approach to achieve desired results,” says Schnedler. “I can’t stress enough how important it is to take time to talk with your new employees. They have so much to share, and likely fresh ideas, that can be beneficial to the organization. Investing that time with them will allow you to help them with any struggles they run into.”

6. Managers also should serve as coaches

As pointed out in the Forbes article, millennials want mentors, not bosses.

“Today’s millennial wants to be coached up and the best way to do this is through manager-to-employee coaching,” says Greg Harris, President and CEO of Quantum Workplace, a company that works with small and large employers to administer employee engagement surveys, action-planning tools, leadership assessments, and employer of choice recognition programs. In fact, recent Quantum Workplace research found that 82 percent of employees who receive coaching from their manager more than once a month are engaged. This can be especially important for companies training recent college graduates new to the workforce. In addition to showing them they care about their future through ongoing training and development, employers can coach these new hires their way (before any bad habits are developed from working with other employers). This is a great way to learn where any skills gaps may be, or where they may feel disconnected.

“Encourage company leaders to meet with each college grad or entry-level hire in a frequent and individualized manner,” says Harris. “Tell them to take this time to discuss and update goals, and explain how coaching sessions will help them grow with your company. This will help them prepare coaching sessions that are effective and valuable to both employees and the company.”

7. Encourage millennials to look towards a long-term career with the company

Look at their career long-term to help them planEmployers should set the expectation with millennials that high-quality work in an entry-level position is the pathway toward future career success, says Heiler. They want to know they are being trained, and groomed for long-term success within the organization. Encourage them to be visionaries and focus on learning to advance their career within the organization.

“Clearly illustrating that their current position act as a stepping stone helps better motivate employees, as they realize they’re working toward a larger goal,” says Heiler. For example, Radial hires thousands of seasonal employees during the busiest time of the year for retailers. Heiler says focusing communication on goal setting and the potential to move into future, full-time opportunities, has helped motivate employees, which increases productivity. At Radial, 18-20% of seasonal employees end up choosing to stay with the company after the holidays. When employees can see a long-term vision, they will become more engaged and motivated to be a part of that.

8. Pair millennials up with a high-performing work buddy

Kate Koha, Manager of RPO Sourcing in Cleveland for Alexander Mann Solutions, a staffing and recruiting firm specializing in talent acquisition and management, says that studies show that 86% of new hire’s decisions to stay in an organization are made within the first 6 months of their employment – so first impressions are important. A strong onboarding program helps, but a new hire also needs to have a legacy person assist in navigating and helping understand the culture of your company.

“Having a person that is available to the new hire – someone to go to lunch with in the initial stages of their orientation, someone they are able to ask the off topic questions from their day to day to, and more, can be really beneficial in making a person feel acclimated,” says Koha.


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9. Focus on integrating millennials into a team environment

Employees who feel engaged from the start are more likely to feel welcomed, and grow with the company. So managers should ask all team members to play a role in welcoming, educating, and engaging a new employee. This is especially important if a manager is busy (say, dealing with company leadership during a peak time of the year, or when finalizing an important project), and not as easily accessible. Plus, it gives the Millennial someone else to turn to – and with whom to develop trust.

“The manager usually won’t know everything, and who better to answer questions on the day-to-day nuances that arise than the team members who have been performing in this role already,” says Koha.

10. Let millennials know failure is okay

Not everyone is going to get it right 100% of the time, and millennials are going to make a mistake at some point. If they do fail – and it will happen, a manager should be there to educate, and help them improve for next time. Don’t berate or talk down to the employee, especially in front of peers, or in any electronic communication (email).

“Having a conversation about the issue filled with context allows for more insight and transparency and leads to a culture of trust, rather than fear,” says Koha.

Engaging millennials should be a focus of today’s manager. It doesn’t have to be expensive. It just has to be a focus. Focus on the above tips, and watch your millennial workforce become more engaged, and successful, in the process.

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