Millennials. 80% of the workforce by 2020. Difficult to manage. Switch jobs 2-3 times in five years on average. Least engaged in the workplace. These are only a few of the many alarming headlines that make us—HR professionals—worried. And it should.

Only one in four millennials is engaged at work, with the remaining 71% either not engaged or actively disengaged, according to Gallup‘s How Millennials Want to Work and Live. This is a significant population of employees who are not emotionally connected to their jobs.

The Gallup report goes on to note that the results indicate that millennials are far more likely to accept another job offer and switch to a ‘better’ opportunity than non-millennials. Disengagement is not only emotionally torturing for a generation that claims their work is their life, it also means we are dealing with higher voluntary turnover than ever.

It has never been more timely to redefine where should we place our HR focus. In a world where globally recognized brands like Airbnb and L’Oréal hire marketing professionals for their HR roles to brand their company internally, and the traditionally siloed banks spend hundreds of thousands on digital transformation tools to make their workflows more agile and collaborative, we asked ourselves “How can we better engage millennials at work?”

 

Always act on feedback

While there are hundreds of canned and general posts and solutions about how to do just that, organizations seem to be losing the battle to have emotionally connected millennials. We decided to take it several steps further and find out what our millennials need and what can we do about it.

The process required us to ask a lot of questions with surveys. However, the challenge is that there’s the risk that respondents won’t feel compelled to fill out “another survey”, which translates to a lower response rate. Without enough responses that provide adequate representative data about the workplace population, company-wide decisions about employee engagement strategies that are particularly designed for our employees will be less effective.

One of the ways to encourage more millennials to participate in our engagement pulse surveys and employee feedback is to communicate changes based on responses we get within a week after the surveys have been sent out. This allows them to trust that when management asks for their opinions, their responses will inspire your actions, which will ultimately contribute to a better work experience for them.

 

Help them leverage their strengths

People feel better about what they do at work when it means something to them and they know that they are contributing to a cause, especially when it ties into the goals of your organization. Millennials are not different—they are better engaged when they feel that their contribution leaves a footprint.

What we did was explore what future ambitions employees have—using an anonymous poll—like, do they want to be senior managers (13%), or become their own bosses (54%). We also encouraged employees to take the Gallup StrengthsFinder test.

First, we wanted them to be more aware of their strengths and understand that becoming one’s own boss might not be everyone’s cup of tea. We created events for entrepreneurship where they could ask anything from experts about career, leadership, and start-ups and find out what it means to run a business.

On the other hand, we wanted to create better work experience by helping them understand who they are as individuals, what are their strengths and what roles they can master at work based on their results.

 

Allow for job-rotation to keep millennials engaged

In many cases, disengagement grows when employees don’t fit into their roles at work. It also helps if you make job rotation a strategic initiative when managing millennials. In a poll conducted with SelfDrvn—a digital engagement hub—almost half of the 100 respondents (80% of whom are millennials) indicated that they would prefer to rotate jobs at least once a year.

This will help them better leverage their skills and what they are good at, continue learning and minimize the likelihood of them looking for “better” opportunities outside your company.

 

Keep the conversations on-going by creating interest

One of the most important lessons we’ve learned was that employee engagement is a continuous process. Getting employee buy-in by creating a campaign (using all your internal communication channels) to over-communicate the benefits to them is also crucial. Eventually, it will be the employees themselves who will keep discussions going—if your campaign was successful.

Most of your efforts at this point should go into keeping your promise in delivering your planned strategies and sharing success stories of how some of the millennials got promoted after rotating to a role that better fit their strengths. This will encourage the rest of your millennial employees to become interested if they weren’t already.

The takeaway from our continuous experiments is that all your employee engagement and experience efforts should be personalized (as much as possible) to your employees. In addition, more than just rating employee sentiments, it is crucial that you ask the right questions that will provide you with actionable insight.

What can you do about that now, today? You can start by finding out what motivates your employees to come to work every day and strengthen that motivation. It is also crucial that you over-communicate (let them whenever and where possible) the benefits that your engagement efforts will have on them.

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