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ATD Blog

5 Ways to Engage (and Retain) Millennials

Thursday, November 5, 2015

If you’re managing people, chances are you’re managing at least one Millennial. That’s because this year, Millennials, people who are ages 18-34 in 2015, overtook Generation X as the largest generation in the U.S. workforce (Pew Research Center’s analysis of U.S. Census Bureau). In fact, one in three American workers are now Millennials.

So what does this mean for managers? Managers need to purposely manage to get the highest level of engagement and performance from their Millennials employees. This can be done by considering specific characteristics of this generation and following these recommendations.

Create a Safe Workplace Having grown up under the cloud of 9/11 and Homeland Security, Millennials are a bit low on social trust. Trust is the foundation of high performing teams. As the manager, you are accountable for creating and sustaining a trusting workplace. Increase levels of trust by providing opportunities for team members to share a little about who they are and what’s important to them.

One of my favorite team activities is to have team members answer these two questions before a staff meeting:

What are you proud of?
Who would you most want to invite to dinner and why? Managers can increase levels of trust by being roles models for behaviors that demonstrate vulnerability and humility. Let employees know that it’s alright to admit that you don’t know something and commendable to ask for help. Trust needs to be encouraged every day but taking these actions will go a long way toward creating a positive team culture.


Encourage Inclusion
A lot has been said about the differences between generations. As the manager of a workplace with as many as five generations, you have an opportunity to create an inclusive environment where everyone feels valued and able to reach their potential. Help people feel comfortable about a potentially uncomfortable topic.

To do this, encourage discussion about the strengths of each generation and the common attributes among generations. Acknowledge differences among generations while pointing out the significant benefits that diversity can bring to the workplace. A work team made up of four or five generations could lead to significant learning and innovation!


Get Them Involved
Millennials want to make a difference in the workplace and in the world. Engaging them will require going beyond making sure that they know the company’s mission and vision. Millennials want to know the corporate goals, the rationale for the goals and how they personally will impact the success of the organization. Be proactive. Schedule time in team meetings to discuss your organization’s strategy and brainstorm ways your team can support that strategy.

Go “Tech” or Go Home
As the first digital natives in the workplace, Millennials will be the first to recommend a technological solution to any work-related problem. Be open to solutions using mobile and social media when it is within the bounds of your organization’s security policies. If you need help, don’t be afraid to ask a Millennial. Remember, you’re creating a workplace that fosters trust.

Value Them
Everyone wants to be valued. Millennials are no different. They want to be recognized for their efforts as well as their accomplishments. I’ve worked with many managers that don’t need or want recognition for their work. Even if you personally don’t feel a strong need for recognition in the workplace, you must be aware that Millennials, who were likely raised by hovering parents, want frequent feedback and acknowledgement.

So, what’s the payoff for valuing and respecting employees? Engagement, performance, and retention—all the essential ingredients in any recipe for a successful organization.

About the Author

Hunter Haines has been a friend of ATD for many years. She is a past president of ATD Maryland, holds the Certified Professional in Learning and Performance credential, and often volunteers with ATD to work on the CPLP assessment process.

Like most talent development professionals, Hunter wears many hats. She is an organization development and inclusion consultant at the University of Maryland Medical System and the founder and president of People Leading People, a leadership coaching and consulting company. In these roles, Hunter specializes in developing leaders to engage employees and drive business results. When she’s not facilitating a leadership development workshop, Hunter can be found working with teams and coaching leaders at all levels. She is also a mentor coach at the Maryland University of Integrative Health.

Hunter believes that all employees can be fulfilled in their work roles and that leaders have a responsibility to help make that happen. This drives her desire to help leaders be as effective and accountable as possible.

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