How to drive better engagement among Millennials

Engage generation yThe workplace is a different environment from what it was even just a decade ago. Organisations had employee engagement strategies and policies that addressed the workforce as one homogenous group without any differentiation for the different generations that worked for them. But now that strategy simply doesn’t work and senior management and HR professionals have to develop new engagement models that take into account the generational differences that make up their unique workforce.

The driving force behind this change has been the millennial generation. Millennials are also known as Generation Y and include those born between 1982 and 2000. In recent years, the numbers of Millennials in the workforce has significantly increased whilst Baby Boomers retire, giving the workplace a very different feel.

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What makes them different?

  • They are only shackled to their gadgets – Millennials have never known a time without digital technology, and so don’t believe that you need to work in a particular location every single day. With smartphone and tablet technology becoming more powerful and a decent Internet signal or Wi-Fi, the location and hours they work shouldn’t be restrictive.
  • They prefer less face time – No, we’re not talking about the social media website but time spent in long face-to-face meetings or showing your face at the office. They don’t see why people should get paid just for showing up in an office unless the job requires them to be in a particular location. Meetings that drag on will irritate them.
  • They believe in learning, not pieces of paper – When it comes to personal development and career development they value knowledge and experience over qualifications. Millennials seem to have a continual learning mindset and will often look things up on Wikipedia or YouTube. They also value learning from someone else’s experience and like to pick the brains of more experienced people.
  • They believe in life, not work-life balance – They want a life that includes family, friends, hobbies and work, which is why Millennials see work as part of their life, not something separate.


How to engage Millennials

  • CollaborationDesign projects around teamwork – A lot of schooling for Millennials was designed around teamwork, so encourage cooperation and collaboration on tasks and projects – as a bonus it may mean tasks are completed more efficiently. And when it comes to reviewing performance include an element of collaboration and teamwork, rather than just assessing the individual.
  • Ditch the annual review – Older workers have been brought up on the annual review and the ‘no news, is good news’ mentality. Millennials want constant feedback; they want to know how they are doing. For them, getting feedback is like getting coaching. So ditch the annual review and let your Millennials know how they are doing with peer evaluations, mentoring programmes and informal chats.
  • Treat them with value and respect – The number one reason Millennials leave organisations is because they didn’t feel valued and respected by their manager. Managers need to show their appreciation to Millennials through formal recognition programmes or an informal thank you.
  • Create a learning environment – Millennials want to continue to learn throughout their careers so offer professional and personal development programmes. Mentoring programmes can be very successful with this group as they are keen to learn from someone else’s experience.


With a multi-generational workforce, a one-size fits all approach to employee engagement no longer works. HR professionals need to know that there are differences between the generations and what motivates and engages one group, will not necessarily motivate and engage another group. By being flexible, adapting to the changing demographics of their workforce and considering what drives each generation organisations can prevent falling employee engagement levels across all generations.


John Sylvester

John is responsible for the motivation division of p&mm ltd and a Director on the board of the IPM. Specialising in developing, implementing and directing many large scale staff motivation, recognition and employee communications programmes.
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