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Capture the Hearts and Minds of Your People

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Back in the day, potential employees evaluated their future employers based on health benefits, pension plans, and the quality of food in the cafeteria. Today, Generation Y (more commonly known as “Millennials”) is looking for more in a workplace—more flexibility, more compassion, more exposure. The millennial generation expects a different work experience from that of their predecessors—and it all begins with employee engagement. 

Employee engagement, according to Forbes magazine, is “the emotional commitment an employee has to an organization and its goals.” For the employer, this means to attract and retain talented employees, you need to appeal to their hearts and their minds.

Their Hearts

One of the defining characteristics associated with millennials is that they want to make a difference and solve big problems (ones that are bigger than themselves). They are very socially conscious and want the companies they work for to stand for something beyond the bottom line. To receive ultimate buy-in and loyalty, a company needs appeal to millennials’ values through:

·       Corporate social responsibility

Companies view social responsibility in a variety of ways. Sometimes it’s just a series of activities, initiatives, or fundraisers; other times it is sponsorships, scholarships, or large donations. But when you think about corporate social responsibility at the highest level, it includes the entire ecosystem of the company and how they interact with all of their stakeholders. It’s a part of a company’s identity and values—and something that is personally important to millennials so they expect it from their employers. Millennials want to know what a company stands for beyond what it does and how it makes money. And then they want to know how a company delivers on that in terms of messaging, action, and opportunities. Companies need to provide opportunities for their people—things like stretch assignments or volunteer projects— that allow them to give back and interact with society as a whole. Leaders need to demonstrate their commitment and participate as well; millennials want to see that corporate social responsibility is more than just a buzzword. 

·       Work/life balance

We hear again and again about the importance of work/life balance to millennials and it’s true, but maybe not for the reasons you think. It’s not that they are lazy or don’t want to work. Millennials will get the work done; it’s just that they want the flexibility to do the things that are important to them when they want to do them. They will work on weekends and evenings to meet work commitments, but they need that support and flexibility to take time off to do these things and they expect workplace policies to reflect that. 

·       Strong, inspiring leadership

Millennial are looking for meaning and impact, and when at work, they look toward the leaders for inspiration and purpose. The companies they work for and their leaders need to demonstrate that they are focused on more than just profit. They want to know that companies produce good and reliable products and that leaders behave in an ethical way, have an inspiring vision, and demonstrate a commitment to helping improve society.

Their Minds

Engaging millennials minds may feel a little easier for organizations as this is where career development and advancement come in. Companies cannot underestimate the importance of just good management. Millennials want to feel like their company is invested in them, their growth, and their development. They want to know what’s expected of them and be held accountable to reaching those milestones. To do this, companies need to provide:

·       Career growth opportunities

Career development is important to millennials. They want to be a part of setting goals and objectives so they can understand the steps they need to take to progress in their organization and career. However, they may not initiate the conversation with their managers. Instead a manager will need to be proactive and thoughtful about engaging them in career development and creating stretch opportunities, alternative career goals, and career paths. These conversations drive buy-in and led to more commitment from this generation of employees. 

·       Professional development and training

In order to obtain the career growth they desire, millennials are strongly interested in professional development and training opportunities and expect them to be available and encouraged. Mentorship is an ideal way to bring along a more junior employee as this will engrain their membership into the team and offer them hands-on learning opportunities. 

·       Effective feedback and ongoing performance management

Ongoing feedback is key to maintaining a millennial’s interest—and not just an annual performance review. Frequent conversations around shared goals, performance objectives, and growth potential are valued by millennials and will fuel their ambitions. This engagement will enhance the young employee’s feeling of belonging and investment. A manager should be establishing and encouraging a healthy dynamic among the team.

Today, a lot of companies acknowledge there are generational differences but still struggle with how to recognize and respond to those differences. Millennials want flexibility, career investment, and a purpose. Companies need to look at the work environment, their policies, and their programs from the millennial perspective—rather than top down where management may reflect more of the baby boomer or silent generation—and tailor those things accordingly. It’s starting from a different place. That’s when you will see changes happen.

This article originally appeared on LinkedIn June 4, 2018. 

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