As 2016 drew to a close, a fascinating video went viral across social media. It was an interview with author and motivational speaker Simon Sinek, on talk show channel Inside Quest.

During the interview, Sinek addressed the ‘Millennial Question’ and attempted to explain why so many of this generation (generally accepted to be those born between 1980 and 1992) were having difficulty adjusting to the modern, corporate workplace. Indeed, a recent Gallup Poll discovered that just 28.9% of them felt engaged with their job.

His assertions have since been rebuked by some corners and many of his claims and sources questioned, but what the interview undoubtedly did was bring to the fore a conversation many were already having behind closed doors. This is a generation that requires a different approach if we are going to extract from them their true potential. But how do we do it? In this piece, we will present five practical ways your business can engage with this generation and nurture their talents. And as the current workforce ages and moves towards retirement, finding ways to do this is becoming less advisable and rather more, critical.

*Of course, not all Millennials are the same, but for the purpose of keeping this post at a manageable length, they, as a generation, will be talked about in general terms. It is for the company to assess the individuals and decide whether, if any of these methods are applicable.

  1. Redefine mentorship

Understanding what drives millennials involves understanding what their life experience has entailed so far. Their experience of education was one more geared towards collaborative, as opposed to independent learning. They have been immersed in technology, and they have seen the power their words can have across the various social media platforms. Taking this into consideration, assigning them a mentor with the traditional top down mentor/rookie dynamic is simply no longer effective. Millennials have a deep yearning to ‘make a difference’ and this should be accommodated wherever possible. With mentoring, it can be achieved by deploying a more reciprocal approach, where the older mentor helps the Millennial with work projects and listens to their concerns, and the Millennial in return, helps the mentor capitalise on new trends and technologies they are more au fait with.

  1. Offer diverse benefits

It’s common practice with companies, especially larger ones, to offer employees a range of benefits. Traditionally these have included such things as private healthcare and discounts on company stock as examples. To engage and attract the interest of Millennials, this may require a rethink. Partly as a result of the overwhelming images shared of so-called ‘perfect bodies’ on social media, rightly or wrongly Millennials tend to be quite image-conscious. They therefore will be much more receptive to company benefits that contribute to healthy living. Gym memberships, discounts for sportswear shops and spa days have all proved popular with the companies that have offered them. Having experienced early adulthood amidst global financial crisis, many Millennials are also wary of finances and many feel ill-informed as to options and responsibilities. Paying for finance professionals to come in and talk to them about issues like debt management, budgeting, pensions, and investments are generally very well received.

  1. Adapt your communications

If there is one thing that defines the life experience of Millennials, it is technology. They have phones, tablets, apps, laptops, and PCs, they have social media and games consoles, they post, blog, tweet, favourite, like, share and filter, they email, text, Skype, poke, and snap, they upload and download videos, they file-share and they stream. Putting them in corporate spaces and depriving them of access to these technologies and modes of communication is not just disorientating for them, but companies could be missing a trick by doing so. Not only will adopting these various methods engage them more, but their proficiency with these technologies can be harnessed by companies and used to further their own interests. For instance, they can be put in charge of the company’s social media platforms, make videos for the company website and be brought in for consultation should the company choose to build an app or particular internet service.

  1. Allow them to collaborate

Trends in education, such as the deployment of Kagan structures, have moved towards much more collaborative working between pupils of all ability levels. By adopting similar ways of working, the transition into the workplace becomes less intimidating. There is another reason this is important though, and it’s one eluded to by Simon Sinek in his now viral video. Because so much of their social interaction is done digitally, many Millennials struggle with being placed in environments where interaction is done face-to-face. Too often their phones come out and important relationship building opportunities are missed. Collaborative learning, with a ban on mobile phones during sessions, develops their social and emotional intelligence and makes them more confident and productive workers.

  1. Empower them

60% of Millennials in a recent report revealed that ‘sense of purpose’ was a major factor behind their choice of employer. As eluded to earlier, Millennials as a group, have a strong desire to ‘make a difference’. 60% of them have also already changed careers at least once, with many citing a lack of opportunity to make an impact being a key reason for them handing in their notices. Though a complex group, Millennials are well educated, talented, highly skilled and are a great resource for any company. Feed their desire to have influence by giving them early leadership opportunities within projects and schemes of work. Give them space to explore their creativity and provide platforms for them to share their skills and talents.

Final Word

For some readers, this may all seem over-the-top and as if Millennials are somehow special and deserve preferential treatment. One would counter this by again referring to Sinek’s interview and one particular and powerful point he made; Millennials aren’t to blame for how they are. They didn’t ask to be born into the technological revolution, nor did they ask to be born into a society where they were told they can do anything they want, and that just taking part is the same as winning. Their experiences and subsequent expectations are what has moulded them. Rather than viewing your companies approach to them as molly-coddling, see it as an opportunity to reinvent and modernise the way you do business. The Millennials are our future leaders, and it’s in everyone’s interest if they’re given all the tools to be the best leaders they can be.

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