How to Engage Generation Y Employees

Keeping your younger workforce engaged can bring a lot of energy to your company. Are you tasked with engaging Millennials? If so, here are a few ideas:

  • Harness technology for communication. Where Gen Xers are technologically savvy, Gen Yers are technologically dependent. Having grown up well after the advent of computers, the Internet, and mobile phones, Gen Y is accustomed to enjoying instant communication and having information at their fingertips.

    Note, however, that they increasingly eschew both phones and e-mail in favor of text messaging — important to consider if your company's communication protocol involves lengthy missives from the CEO.

  • Allow for mobility and flexibility. Millennials are attracted to new technologies, especially those that grant them increased mobility. If your Gen X workers looked at the desktop computer as a dinosaur, preferring a laptop computer in its stead, don't be surprised to see your Gen Y employees take things a step further and request tablets to get their jobs done.

    You'll recoup the cost by capturing their discretionary effort during non-work hours. And if telecommuting and/or flextime is an option, all the better.

  • Allow for job rotation. Earlier generations saw job rotation as nice to have. For Millennials, however, job rotation is a must. Unlike some older employees, Gen Y is not particularly concerned with permanence or security.

    Instead, many view abruptly changing career directions to be perfectly acceptable solutions if they're dissatisfied with their jobs. If you want your Millennials to stick around, you must allow them to take on different jobs or do the same jobs differently.

  • Give frequent feedback. Boomers may happily go years between performance appraisals. But recognition, praise, and constructive criticism are not only welcomed by both younger groups, but are means to motivate them.

    Gen Xers require a little more attention in this area, but will likely be satisfied with mid-year performance feedback in addition to their annual performance review. Millennials, however, are likely to ask, “How am I doing today?” When you have Millennials on staff, be prepared to offer constant feedback!

  • Don't restrict Internet or social media use. Many organizations restrict employees’ use of the Internet and social media, citing employees who “waste time” using these technologies. But if your employees are downloading the latest Muse video off YouTube or socializing on Facebook four hours a day, you have a performance problem, not an Internet or social media problem.

    Too many IT departments look at the Internet and social media as a hardware issue (“They'll shut down our server!”) and block the use of these invaluable communications tools. The Internet, along with social media, can be amazing research, communication, branding, and engagement enablers.

    Plus, if you restrict their use, employees — particularly Gen Yers — will simply obtain access via their own mobile devices during work hours. Trust your employees to do the right thing, and more often than not, they will!

  • Invite Millennials to serve on social committees. If Gen X brought work–life balance to the workplace, Gen Y is bringing work–life blending. Millennials are a social and networked generation, accustomed to connecting with a wide universe. For them, the walls between work and play are porous. They're hungry to bring their work colleagues into their social sphere.

    Engage them to participate and perhaps even lead your social committees, Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiatives, and so on. They're a ready and able committee waiting to be asked to help socialize your business.

Looking to attract and engage more Millennials to your firm? Refer to the sheet in this figure and note what you do now in terms of CSR, workforce flexibility, innovation, rotation of assignments, and branding, and what you could do in each of those categories.

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