When it comes to working with Millennials – or frankly anyone born post-Internet explosion – you’ve heard enough of the same stuff to bore an elephant. For example, I’m sure you’ve heard things like:
- Give them “fun” places to work. Have games, beanbag chairs, and free Redbulls in the fridge!
- Create a place where they can share ideas!
- Offer flexible work arrangements!
- Give them a company-embroidered fuzzy onesie and let them wear it to work on Fridays!
I made that last one up, but I think it’s the best idea we haven’t pursued yet. It would definitely work.
In small pockets these ideas might be useful. However, NONE of them is a silver bullet strategy for creating engagement. In fact, they’re actually strategies for treating the symptoms of disengagement. If that’s all you need, then…wait a second, no, that’s NOT all you need. It can’t be. Because if you aren’t looking for a cure to the underlying problem, those symptoms will reappear at some point down the road and you’ll end up fighting the same battle all over again.
Our job as leaders needs to be about finding a cure. For over a decade I worked with Millennials on a daily basis, and I’ve always made engagement a topic of conversation. Over the years I’ve found two ways to cure disengagement altogether where the rest of the ‘popular’ strategies focus on treating the symptoms.
1. Create a place of purpose
All the bells and whistles around a fun work environment are nice to have, but they can’t hold a candle to an environment thriving with purpose. In other words, the game rooms and flexible schedules might get someone in the door, but they won’t keep them from leaving. Focus your efforts on helping Millennials see the purpose of the work you do, and your efforts will have a much greater impact.
2. Recognize where you’re tolerating poor performance – and stop it!
Millennials are impatient, right? They all want to be CEO after 6 weeks, right? WRONG. That’s not the case for the majority of them. Most of them want to be challenged, pushed towards opportunities where they can be in a position to learn, and make meaningful progress towards building upon their career. It’s not fair to fault them for a basic desire I’d argue all age groups share. Yet somehow that desire to be challenged or be afforded meaningful work has turned into the perception that Millennials don’t want to work for their careers and want to be given everything instead.
What’s interesting is that when I talk with Millennials, the most frequent reason they provide for their perceived “impatience” is the consequence of a poor working environment – specifically, work environments where poor performance is tolerated by leadership. Millennials actually DO understand they can’t be CEO after 6-weeks on the job! However, if poor performance is allowed to thrive, that “be patient” advice is a lot tougher to swallow when there seems to be a lack of accountability for others. Your job as a leader should be taking a hard look to ensure everyone is being held to high standards. Do that, and you’ll see the subsequent gains in engagement and overall productivity.
If you can create an environment where people are connected to a bigger purpose and everyone is expected to perform at a high level, you’ll be years ahead on the engagement curve than if you spent the time buying bean bag chairs and Redbulls. So forego the Costco trip! You’ll just walk out with 14 gallons of ranch dressing, and nobody needs that much.
I’m curious to hear how it goes. Hit me up (@HavensSpeaking) and share any other stories you have around building engagement. I’m looking forward to hearing about your engagement journey!