Giving Meaning to the Work: It’s How You REALLY Engage Millennials

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Feb 6, 2014

This is a fact: In 10 years, Millennials (also known as Gen Y) will make up 75 percent of the global workforce.

With that reality staring us in the face, it’s time to stop marginalizing Millennials and their needs in the workplace. We can no longer say, “They were coddled too much as kids and now expect recognition for every little achievement” as we dismiss the need for feedback on their work.

Besides, this is all a fallacy anyway. Millennials aren’t asking for praise and appreciation at every turn. They are saying, “I’m new in this job and in the workplace in general. I don’t know if what I’m doing are the right things to do. I need you to give me more feedback on the value and importance of what I do.”

They want impact and meaning

Let’s be honest — weren’t all of us (regardless of generation) in need of the same thing when we were new in the workplace? That said, Millennials are asking for more than their elders – but not what you think.

This article (along with others) makes a strong case for the Millennial employee need for the work they do to have greater impact and meaning.

According to the Engagement Guide, Millennials value corporate citizenship more than salary, job flexibility, and even corporate culture. And with Millennials representing the fastest growing demographic in the workplace – and turnover costing an average $24,000 per employee – companies have needed to become more competitive as ever in the labor market.

The solution? Well, there are a few. Adopting responsible business practices might be enough for some companies to stay in the game. But be wary; most leading thinkers on this topic agree that Millennials are not easily fooled by empty PR stunts. And while responsible practices are certainly a good start, a smart company likely realizes that a reputation as ‘not-unethical’ is probably the bare minimum.

Employees, especially Millennials, thrive when they are engaged in the workplace and developing as professionals.”

Core company values — real values — are essential

This is another reason why strong, vibrant, “living” core values are critical to engaging employees in their work and thereby driving company success (because engaged employees are far more productive and less costly to the organization).

Your company values, however, can’t be merely lip service or pretty art on your walls. They must be real and lived by every employee, every day.

More to the point, every employee must see just how these core values are, well …  valued  ..  by the organization’s leaders.

That’s where social recognition comes in. Recognize employees regularly (and encourage them to recognize each other) for living the core values. Make sure recognition is very specific, detailing how the actions, behaviors or results demonstrated a core value and the impact those efforts had on the person giving the recognition, the team involved, the client or the company itself.

Give your employees – of every generation – the context they need to see the impact of their work within a bigger picture and, critically, how those efforts uphold the values the organization operates under.

How are you serving your Millennial employees?

You can find more from Derek Irvine on his Recognize This! blog.