How is it that some of the most successful companies in the world still have their heads stuck in the sand when it comes to employee engagement? Please tell me:
As a leader, is there anything more important than ensuring your employees are completely engaged?
Hopefully, if you're in management, you're on my wave and the answer's "HELL NO!" If not I suggest you leave me a comment why and quickly grab your fire-retardant suit.
So how can we as leaders fully harness the insane potential that our young millennial employees are ready to unleash- given the right conditions?
I recommend you focus on the same 5 things that have kept me super engaged during my 16 years rock climbing:
Communication consistently ranks as the most important of the leadership traits, yet it is also the one most lacking in management today. The way millennials communicate is instantaneous and they expect, and need, clear communication and immediate feedback.
However, according to a recent Gallup report:
Managers aren't providing the feedback millennials want or need.
Only 21% of millennials meet with their manager on a weekly basis. Managers that meet with their direct reports on a consistent basis see engagement scores more than double (44% as opposed to 20%).
Check-in with your millennials at least once a day.
They also need to know what their work priorities are and why it's important for them to see the big picture. Don't ever assume they know why- and don't worry about being too communicative!
Remember, the quality and frequency of your communication with your young workers will determine the quality of that relationship, as well as their level of engagement and performance!
Millennials are connected to everything and everyone. They want, and expect, their boss to be more than a delegator of orders! Remember 1 out of 2 employees will leave their job because of a lousy boss- one they didn't feel any connection to. Not to mention that leaders with strong personal ties to their direct reports have employees with far higher engagement rates than those that don’t.
To connect with your millennials, create greater trust and loyalty by being more authentic.
Great leaders don’t fret over public opinion and neither should you. Let go of who you think you should be, and just be yourself. You will gain their trust and respect in the process.
Show them the real you. We all have the same fears of not being good enough, smart enough or worthy enough, so why pretend we are the exception?
Focus on your social and emotional intelligence.
How are you coming across? Are you seeing yourself in their shoes? What are they feeling? Really listen to them, focusing on their tone, their body language, and what's not being said as much as what is.
The best managers connect deeply with their employees by paying attention to what’s important to them.
Carve out some time each week to grab lunch or a coffee with your key team members. Find out what they enjoy doing outside of work and get to know them personally.
Let them know that you and the company care for them.
As their need to belong is met, they will give more of themselves, which, in turn, fuels their next need: their need to contribute.
We all want to be doing something significant with our lives and have those efforts recognized. According to Gallup's latest report on millennials:
Young employees find purpose to be more important than paycheck.
If your millennials have no idea how their work makes a difference than you'll probably be looking for their replacement in the very near future. In fact, studies show that:
Employees are happiest when they know they are making a difference and helping others.
However, their contribution often goes unnoticed. This can quickly lead to resentment and disengagement- don't forget that for the last twenty years we've been rewarding their twelfth place finishes so:
Recognize and publicly celebrate their accomplishments whenever possible
Self-direction is key to performance, creativity and engagement. Employees are far more loyal and productive in workplace environments that respect their freedom and encourage their self-expression. Millennials get this better than the rest of us yet we are still stifling their creativity doing things the same old way.
To ensure they feel a sense of autonomy:
Remind your employees that everything they do is their choice.
Choice is power, and when your junior workers believe they have a choice they will become more engaged in the process. Align their choices with their values, not their fears. When we choose from fear, our actions lack power. When we choose from our values our actions have more power, more meaning and more energy.
Give your employees more flexibility to accommodate their schedules. Who works 9-5 anymore?
Decentralize whatever authority you can so your workers have more decision-making power. This will empower them and make your company much more efficient.
If your millennials feel they aren't making progress in their personal and/or professional development they will soon become disconnected and seek opportunities elsewhere.
Ensure that each employee is constantly challenged so that they can grow.
Talk to your millennials about their career path and provide ways they can develop their leadership skills. More than six in ten millennials (63 percent) say their “leadership skills are not being fully developed” according to a report by Deloitte.
If your company doesn't have onsite leadership development opportunities then give your team the chance to attend conferences or workshops that will help them develop the necessary skills to advance in their careers. You could also encourage them to attend a local Toastmasters club- or better yet- start one at your company.
You can also help your millennials grow and build confidence by ensuring they are concentrating on their unique strengths and capabilities:
Focusing on their weaknesses is the quickest way to disengagement land.
Another way to promote growth is through modeling. Have inexperienced employees watch other colleagues with similar skills perform more advanced tasks. Seeing others with similar abilities succeed at a task will help them develop positive, “can-do” beliefs.
Finally, optimize the environment. Create a vibrant, energetic, stress-free workplace that encourages your employees to get the food, exercise, rest and water their bodies need so they can perform at their best.
The most engaging leaders are unleashing the full power and creative energy of their millennials by focusing on these five areas: communication, connection, contribution, freedom and growth. They know that what really motivates the new generation – once their basic financial needs have been met – is their desire to learn, grow and develop as leaders, connect and collaborate with others and contribute meaningful work.
Ascanio Pignatelli helps Fortune 1000 companies unlock the full promise, energy and creativity of their millennials. Ascanio is an award winning speaker, workshop facilitator, coach, and author of the forthcoming book “Engaging Millennials.” His company E3 Solutions helps executives improve their leadership and communication skills to create more engaging workplaces.