How to Onboard Millennials - dummies

By Hannah L. Ubl, Lisa X. Walden, Debra Arbit

When new employees join your ranks, getting them up to speed and ready for the task is a huge part of their manager’s job. This process, known as onboarding, isn’t a one-day or even a one-week task. Often, it can take several months before a new hire is fully onboarded, and collaboration can be key to a manager’s success.

Knowing that collaboration is a core part of the Millennial personality, you’d be wise to find ways to incorporate more team-based activities into your onboarding and training. Not only will Millennials like it more but it will also spread the responsibility around so it doesn’t all land on you. First impressions go a long way, but you don’t need to roll out the red carpet and crown them next generation all-stars to make them happy. Stick to these seven strategies of onboarding, and you’ll appeal to the next generation’s collaborative nature:

  • Connect the dots to the bigger picture. Take time during their first week to show Millennials how even when it seems like they’re doing independent (and sometimes even menial) work, their efforts weave into the company’s goals and benefit the team at large.
  • Involve people from all levels and layers. The more, the merrier. Though in many cases it’s impossible to involve everyone in your company in the onboarding process, the more you involve (within reason), the better. Don’t just introduce new hires to their managers, but also to colleagues from different departments, to the custodian, to accounting. They want to meet their team.
  • Introduce them to the higher-ups/leadership. Introductions and, even better, conversations with leadership are more than what they seem. They are a way to show new hires that they matter, they have access to leadership, and that collaboration of some kind is possible with people at all levels.
  • Connect them to their peers. Where is their team? Where are the people they’ll be working with from day to day? With whom will they be able to collaborate? Show them. Make sure you introduce Millennials to the peers and potential collaborators they’ll be working with on a regular basis.
  • Do something fun. Millennials are embracing the idea of a #workfamily, integrating work with home, and bringing their authentic selves to the workplace. Do something outside of the ordinary lunch with colleagues on the first week. Do something fun that can spark friendships and bonds with their colleagues and provide a foundation of trust and understanding, which serves as a springboard for collaborative work. Activities can range from a friendly competition of office Olympics to happy hour at the local haunt to a scavenger hunt around the city.
  • Find out about their individual goals. They want to know that, as their manager, you’re not just treating them as employee #329, but as Rebecca. Get to know Rebecca: her goals, what she’s interested in, what her passions are outside of work. Invest in her as a person and show that you’re interested in working with her to build her career and help her become an important and contributing member of the company.
  • Set expectations about feedback. Millennials want feedback from you — probably more often than you’re used to or even comfortable with. Be clear about expectations of feedback. Ask them what their ideal would be and build a structure around what works for the two of you.

A Millennial onboarding adventure: A case study

While there are numerous creative ways to onboard Millennials in a fun way, one of the best examples in recent events included a scavenger hunt around the city, complete with cupcakes, selfies, conversations with leadership, and the element of surprise.

  • The scenario: A group of 20 next-generation hires all began at the same time. They received their onboarding agenda and thought they were heading to a compliance presentation. Yawn. (No offense if you’re fond of compliance.)
  • The surprise: They sat down to listen to compliance, mentally trying to remember the lyrics to the new Rihanna song they just heard on the radio while maintaining composure in what was meant to be a very serious presentation. After the first ubiquitous company slide came a colorful one proclaiming, “Scavenger Hunt!”.
  • The scavenging: Millennials were put into teams with their peers and given their first clue. Solving riddle after riddle, they were sent around the city to their managers’ favorite cupcake shop, the local hotel where they had to take a selfie with the doorman, and a trendy café where senior leadership sipped lattes and awaited their questions. The first team who made it back won a group prize. All were treated to a nice evening meal.
  • The reaction: Not to blow it out of proportion, but one Millennial said, “This is why I chose to work here and why I’ll stay. I love that there’s such a focus on company bonding and fun, even in the onboarding process, here.”