Over the last fifty years, companies across the world adapted to be part of the ‘borderless’ world as the marketplace, consumers and competitors went from ‘local’ to ‘global’. Businesses that failed to incorporate these changes simply perished.
Your company’s success over the next fifty years will be singularly determined by your ability to engage meaningfully with millennials. Millennials are all-encompassing: they will be your largest customers, employees, influencers, and investors. They will be the flagbearers of all significant social, cultural & economic change across the globe.
As an unprecedented and historically high number of millennials enter the workplace, companies urgently need to transition beyond ‘No Borders’ to ‘No Boundaries’. For millennials, the concept of ‘No Boundaries’ is not limited to their physical workspace: it also refers to the economic, social, and emotional nuances of where they work, the outcome of their work, and who they work with and for. Millennials question everything: they demand their employers ‘walk the talk’ on core values, diversity & inclusion, social responsibility, and sustainability. They challenge discrimination and inequality freely and vociferously.
A case in point is how millennials perceive diversity and inclusion. Most of them scrutinize the diversity & inclusion policies of potential employers before making their career decisions. They will search and seek for evidence that their employers practice the stated diversity & inclusion policies. To them, the concept of gender has a more profound context in contrast to their predecessors. Gender is a spectrum and not the conventional ‘male or female’ to them. Equal opportunities and Equal participation for and by all, without any boundaries will be the ‘new normal’ in organizations across the globe. Companies that are agile and open to ‘millennial inclusive’ practices will outperform their peers. Those that don’t will fail to survive the millennial-led tectonic changes in the workplace.
At present, organizations are undergoing massive generational friction within their human capital resources. Businesses that have taken in millennial employees are coping with a multitude of challenges including high attrition, self-centeredness, inconsistent output, policy non-compliance, and casualness. Meanwhile, millennials state they cannot relate to nor comprehend the logic of fixed office timing, annual appraisal cycles, and ‘necktie & leather shoe’ office dress mode. They find ‘cabin’, ‘sir/madam’, ‘boss’ ‘xerox’, ‘elevator music’ unrelatable and uncool. They are appalled and demotivated if they find their workplace to be insensitive towards diversity & inclusion.
Business leaders lack full clarity on how their companies can adapt to & harness the value of their millennials at work. Companies will struggle to ‘survive’ or successfully ‘thrive’ depending on the quality of engagement with their millennial employees. These ten initiatives can be undertaken by companies & leaders to embrace and engage millennials meaningfully in their workplaces:
Contribute to the ‘Higher Purpose’: Millennials can be transactional in engagement with employers that are purely profit driven. Millennials are naturally more attracted and committed towards purpose-driven organizations that truly practice diversity & inclusion. Orienting them to the higher purpose of your company & demonstrating how their actions contribute to this higher purpose will strengthen millennial employee engagement.
Millennial Inclusive Processes & Policies: Reorient the processes & structures to be ‘millennial inclusive’. Form a committee that includes millennials & senior staff to review all processes & policies. Flexibility in working hours, working stations, dress code, ‘open door’ policies are some measures will help build overall employee loyalty, including millennials.
An Open & Conducive Work Environment: Millennials thrive in environments that are physically and emotionally unencumbered. Develop a work environment that allows them to voice their opinions as well as receive regular & continuous feedback for their work. For millennials the ‘coolness’ of their physical work environment is extremely important. This will enable a stimulating work environment for millennials.
An Emotionally supportive Culture: Millennials are emotionally vocal & vulnerable. They face more mental health challenges than all previous generations. It is important to attune & train leaders to be empathetic & supportive when millennials face mental duress. The availability of a mental health counsellor for all employees will augment their mental well-being.
Flexible Career Paths: Millennials are entering the workforce at a time of endless opportunities & options – this causes anxiety in their decision making. Providing millennials opportunities for job rotation, and flexibility in changing departments, functions & locations within the organization can help ignite their confidence. Just knowing that they have flexible career paths will build their self-assurance and self-esteem.
Platforms for Public Recognition: Millennials lose interest at work when they do not find opportunities to lead, solve or deliver on tasks that give them recognition. Most often, they are lost in the hierarchy matrix. They feel marginalized and get demoralized easily. Providing them opportunities to lead small projects and deliver solutions for specific challenges will augment their motivation and morale as well as fulfil their need for public recognition.
Focus on Outcome: Management styles where employees where fully accountable to their employers are now antiquated. Millennials abhor ‘control’. In your communication and actions, focus on the desired specific outcomes from their work instead of focusing on their style of working.
Transparent Risk-Reward System: Millennials are extremely influenced by their peers. They are often over-confident and do not comprehend fixed remuneration, titles and are impatient about promotions. Companies need to clearly communicate the risk-reward mechanisms for remuneration such that millennials know that their efforts, time, and output is directly linked to their earnings.
Reverse the Learning: Millennials are digital natives. They can consume, analyze, and develop digital data much faster than anyone else. Soliciting inputs from millennials on anything digital will boost their morale, provide them an opportunity to share their learnings and build stronger bonds with the organization.
Empathetic Mentors: Millennials are generally overconfident. They are used to receiving a lot of attention because of modern parenting. They are also under more pressure to succeed professionally and personally. If their supervisor can play the role of a mentor and anchor them through their professional journey, it will build loyalty, focus, and enhance productivity.