We hear a great deal about "engaging" millennials - they are the largest generation in the workforce after all! Most of what we hear relates to their reliance on technology, their dependence on social media and their demand for a balanced life. We also hear plenty about how they have less corporate loyalty than other generations and how their self-entitlement makes them difficult to manage. What we need to hear more about however, is how we can tap into their unique sense of self and community to foster the loyalty and engagement we are looking for in our employees.
The majority of millennials have been a ‘Google-search’ away from learning anything they need to know since they were born. This connectedness is what makes them special and is part of what makes them so keenly in-touch with their values and their desire to seek a higher purpose.
Millennials have been engaged with each other, with their community, and with the world in a much more profound way than previous generations. News and information has been coming to them for as long as they remember. Newsfeeds, twitter feeds, Facebook, Instagram and Reddit make staying in touch with what is happening around them second nature. The majority of millennials have been a ‘Google-search’ away from learning anything they need to know since they were born. And this connectedness is what makes them special and is part of what makes them so keenly in-touch with their values and their desire to seek a higher purpose.
They are concerned about social justice, they are passionate about environmental stewardship and they want a better world for themselves and future generations. They are also very ambitious, educated and looking to work for organizations that share their values. They desire a sense of belonging in the workplace and want to work for companies that they are proud of and whose mission aligns with their values.
So how are we doing with delivering this to them? Turns out not as well as we could be. Even at the Best Workplaces in Canada engaging millennials with a “higher purpose” is not as strongly developed as it is for previous generations.
The good news is this represents a great opportunity for improvement and reassessment of how you can leverage your mission and values to create a strong and unifying culture for your millennials specifically, and for your workforce in general.
ALIGN YOUR MISSION AND VALUES WITH YOUR CULTURE
When is the last time you took a look at how your mission, values and culture work together? There may be some areas of disconnect that can be addressed or opportunities for further reinforcement. Workplace demographics can change rapidly and you need to be responsive to this to ensure your cultural messages align with what your workers want and need. Here are some questions to ask as you get the process started:
- What is your purpose? What are you contributing to society?
- What do your people value, both generationally and in general?
- What shared values can you leverage?
- What makes your employees proud? What are you doing to promote and celebrate these elements?
- How do you support corporate stewardship?
- What are you doing in your community to build relationships?
- How innovative and responsive are you, both to community and global needs?
- How visible are your values? How can your workforce embrace them everyday and in everything they do?
The leaders at LoyaltyOne recognized that their workforce was changing. In response they created a Millennial Advisory Committee. The objective of the committee is to develop a dynamic, sustainable culture for the future workforce. The committee is comprised of high performing and diverse millennials who provide insights on programs and help champion LoyaltyOne's culture and values through a grassroots approach.
Similarly at Corby Spirit and Wine, they are committed to engaging young employees to embed social responsibility into their business. They created a nine person global team and attended the One Young World Summit last year. There they came up with 20 project ideas of which four are currently in development and receiving tremendous feedback and enthusiasm from not just their millennial employees but employees and leaders company-wide.
CONNECT DIRECTLY WITH MILLENNIALS
We have much to learn from each other and tapping into the creativity and stewardship of this youngest workforce generation is key to identifying opportunities as well as strengthening your culture.
It is also important to stay connected with millennials in your workplace. Gen X and Boomers likely hold many of the leadership and management roles in your organization so making a special effort to stay in touch with what millennials are thinking is critical. Beyond your efforts in communication and performance management, you need to create an avenue for millennials to express themselves and share their ideas with leaders and key stakeholders. We have much to learn from each other and tapping into the creativity and stewardship of this youngest workforce generation is key to identifying opportunities as well as strengthening your culture.
A great example of staying connected to millennials comes from ATB Financial. As part of a quarterly survey directed at its millennials, they asked for volunteers to form a team to represent their generation and share their insights through an Action Learning Team. This team provides millennials with an avenue to make a difference, voice their opinion and help make decisions that directly impact their day-to-day work environment.
RBC is doing something similar with its NextGen group. This group has eight chapters across Canada and enables RBC employees in their 20s and 30s to build connections with peers and leaders while creating a positive impact on the people they work with and the businesses and communities they work in.
Taking the ‘learning from each other’ concept even further, Yum! Restaurants has a reverse mentoring program where they pair junior employees with senior leaders to educate them on the latest digital trends in social media. This reverse mentoring provides an excellent avenue to not only forge connections and stay in touch inter-generationally; it also ensures leaders to stay well informed on the latest trends.
Another important piece of the engagement puzzle is to get involved in the community. This generation of workers is highly motivated to improve the world they live in and this starts in their own communities. From sponsoring a local charity to getting involved in community events that raise money for specific causes, millennials see these as opportunities to give back, connect with the community and develop a purpose.
At the Best Workplaces in Canada, 84% of the companies offer paid time off to volunteer for a charity or community project. The majority of the workplaces also use community events as a way to celebrate with their employees and build their cultural connectedness. You don’t have to be a large organization to give back to your community and you don’t have to spend a lot of money either. Giving time and talent is often more important to grassroots community organizations than anything and it provides a level of connection that millennials are actively seeking.
G Adventures uses civic engagement in its highly successful Me/We/G Days program. Through this program, G Adventures employees are empowered to change their own lives and create happiness for themselves. To support this they provide three days off per calendar year. They get at 'Me' Day for personal development, a 'We' Day to volunteer in the community, and a 'G' Day to embrace one of their core values. This is just one example of many in which companies are encouraging employees to give back and make a difference.
Ultimately, millennials are looking for a good match between their values and the values of their organization. So much so that they are often willing to switch jobs to find a good fit. This doesn’t make this generation hard to manage or difficult to please, it just makes them unique in what they need to feel committed, loyal, motivated and engaged. To create this strong sense of connection in your workplace, know your values, embrace them everyday and make them very visible in everything you do. This will help you find a meaningful way to create purpose for this younger generation and help create a strong a unified culture among all the generations in your workplace.
Further resources: 2020workplace.com/blog
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