The Secret to Engaging Millennials is Really No Big Secret at All

To get back to Kansas, Dorothy never had to jump through all the death-defying hoops the Wizard put her through.

She had everything she needed (ruby slippers) from the very beginning. All she lacked was the understanding of how to unlock their magical powers.

Since they began making their way into the workforce in the late 1990’s, business leaders, owners, and managers have been trying to figure out how to drive performance from their enigmatic Millennial employees. As arduous and mysterious as this challenge has been hyped up to be, the answer is surprisingly simple.

Unlocking the power of Millennials

To unlock their power, all it takes is a one-to-one relationship with a manager who genuinely cares about them.

Many of my clients employ Millennials as their front line workforce and the face of their brand. These organizations are looking for the keys to engaging Millennials to get them to perform up to their remarkable potential.

Prior to speaking for their conventions and meetings, I conduct interviews with their front line workforce to help take leaders on a backstage tour inside the minds of those people who keep them up at night. By getting my subjects to completely relax and let their guard down, these interviews become remarkably revealing about what it is that they truly want from their managers.

This six-minute video montage features interview clips that I’ve recorded over the past eight years revealing candid comments from Millennial employees in a variety of jobs talking about what they love about their managers, and also what they hate about them. (As you’ll discover, there’s very little middle ground in-between.)

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3 keys to building workplace relationships

If you ask a Millennial to describe their job, inevitably, they will begin telling you about the relationship they have with their manager. This comes before they mention how much they are being paid or what their job responsibilities are.

The message is obvious; if you want them to work harder, perform better, and stay longer, focus your time and energy on these three (3)  crucial relationship-building keys:

  1. Get to know them – You don’t have to be friends with them, but you do need to be friendly. That requires you take an active interest in who they are outside of work. Ask them about their friends, their family, their opinions, their likes and their pet peeves. Discover where their passions lie, and know what they like to do in their spare time.
  2. Help them to get where they want to go – You have an agenda and to achieve it, you need them to be on your side. They, too, have an agenda, and they need you on their side. The more you’re able to help them get where they want to go and give them skills that will serve them along their career path – even if their job with you has little resemblance to where they are going – the more likely they are to give you all they have while they are on your payroll. (It’s also the right thing to do.)
  3. Pay attention to the good things they do – While your primary job is to stay on top of problems, you can prevent a lot of little issues from growing into problems by calling attention to those things your people are doing correctly – not just those things they are doing outstanding.

Don’t wait for someone to be late to work to remind them about the importance you place on reliability; the time to do that is when they arrive early. Don’t just point out that their last report was incomplete without also complimenting them on the three others they did correctly. Change the focus of your energy and you’ll change the culture of your organization.

This was originally published on Eric Chester’s blog Chester on Point. Eric’s new book, On Fire at Work: How Great Companies Ignite Passion in Their People Without Burning Them Out, is available October 2015.

Eric Chester is a leading voice in the global dialogue on employee engagement, and building a world-class workplace culture. He's an in-the-trenches researcher on the topic of the millennial mindset, and the dynamics of attracting, managing, motivating and retaining top talent. Chester is a Hall-of-Fame keynote speaker and the author of 4 leadership books including his newly released Amazon #1 Bestseller On Fire at Work: How Great Companies Ignite Passion in their People without Burning Them Out.  Learn more at EricChester.com and follow him at @eric_chester

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