We’ve all read the stats – millennials are taking over the workforce. And, unless you’ve had your head in the sand for the last several years, you’ve also probably heard all of the stereotypes. It’s a “me” generation. They’re “job hoppers” who are “entitled” and “need constant recognition and rewards.” Maybe some are, but as someone who manages millennials, and works with companies to better engage employees of all ages and stages, I can tell you that the majority of this generation has tremendous potential. They are driven by a desire to do good, eager to succeed and extremely smart. But, like anyone else – engaging them is critical to retaining and growing top millennial talent. And the reality is, right now, employers are missing the mark. According to Gallup, only 29 percent of millennials are engaged at work. So, how do you harness that energy and talent?

  1. Embrace their desire to do good. Millennials want to change the world. And, let’s face it, that’s not a bad thing. Corporate responsibility and employee engagement programs need to work hand in hand. Make corporate responsibility a priority. Give your employees opportunities to volunteer together. Recognize their commitment to the community. If they are proud of what you as a company stand for, they’ll be more engaged and driven to help you get where you want to go.
  2. Help them understand the big picture. Their desire to make a difference extends beyond social good and into the workplace. Make sure they understand and buy into your company’s overall vision, mission and goals. They need to understand the role they play in the organization, where you’re headed and what they can do to help the company get there.
  3. Make training and personal development a priority. Millennials are willing to work hard, and they’re looking for guidance and leadership to get where they want to be. Coach them. Provide them with a clear roadmap and expectations, and offer regular, on-the-spot performance feedback. And, don’t be mistaken – they may be a digital generation, but they still value, and crave, face time.
  4. Connect with them. Millennials are a hyper-connected generation – they don’t know a world without technology or social media. But don’t rely on technology alone. Set up regular, in-person check-ins. Millennials want to be heard. Make it a point to ask for their opinion, and to truly listen. And, above all else, be authentic and transparent.

I’m not a millennial, and I know that no two millennials, or boomers or Gen Xers, are the same. But in theory, having a large population of people who approach work – and life – wanting to do good and make a difference doesn’t sound so bad to me. It’s up to us to channel that energy, to create those opportunities that keep them engaged, and to nurture their spirit. Let’s be honest, in sheer numbers, we can’t afford NOT to.

What is your company doing to engage and excite this generation?