Four Ways to Maximize Engagement of Your Millennial Workforce

November 14, 2014 | Lior Arussy, Founder and President, Strativity Group | HCI
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We live in a world where meeting expectations is no longer sufficient. Customers expect exceptional experiences and have plenty of other choices should you not rise to the occasion.

The credos and philosophies of years past do not hold water in today’s modern workforce. According to a recent article from Fast Company, millennials will become the majority of workplace staffers in 2015. Is your company ready to embrace their culture?

In a book I wrote called Exceptionalize It!, I provide a series of chapters that cover four business areas: Customer, You, Manager, and Success. I paint a complete picture of what to “exceptionalize” and how to do it in a digitized world where competition is hotter than ever.

In these excerpts, you will find four ways managers can extract the most from the youngest members of the global workforce who are primed and ready to take over the world:

  1. Welcome to “Generation Why?”

You know them when you see them. They bear special characteristics in the workplace and in life. They are known as Generation Y. The Millennial generation arrived at the workplace with Internet savvy and with a strong sense of entitlement. Business leaders around the world are seeking creative ways to manage, engage, and motivate this new generation of workers. These employees seem to operate by a different code of ethics.

I would like to propose a slight tweak to the definition of the problem that will shed light on how managers can resolve it. Let’s switch their nickname to Generation Why. By doing so, we’re going to the heart of these employees’ challenge. They’re not good at following orders, nor are they willing to accept top-down instructions. They are asking why? The dialogue with them must change to include the logic behind the projects and work. They need to know why and, more importantly, understand the impact it will make on the world before they decide to participate. Focusing the organization on the customer will establish a solid foundation to answer the question, “why?”.

By changing the name from Gen Y to Gen Why, we actually expand this employee group to include many of the cynics in your office who seem disengaged. They are usually disengaged because they no longer know why they do what they do. Having a strong answer to “why?” will be a powerful motivator to both the Millennial employees and the cynics.

Processes are important, but only explaining why will

deliver exceptional results.

Many managers will find it threatening to need to explain why. Their bosses never needed to do so. Why should they? Well, welcome to the new reality. If you want your employees engaged, start changing the dialogue. Start talking about the why and connect your employees to a meaningful mission, like the power you have to solve people’s problems and make their lives better. Now that will make people get up an hour early to change the world.

  1. Your Employees Mirror You

Want to know why your employees don’t deliver exceptional performance? Start by looking in the mirror. Your employees’ performance mirrors yours. They follow your lead. If you play the blame game, they will do the same. If you take initiative, they will follow your lead and do the same. Employees live in the comfort zone of reflecting their manager’s behavior. They assume that the behavior delivered by the manager is the safe modus operandi.

When you expect your employees to deliver exceptional performance, ask yourself several simple questions. What exceptional performance have I delivered recently? How often do I venture into exceptional performance? Is it the rule or the exception to the rule?

Make the choice to deliver exceptional performance, and your employees will follow.

What exceptional performance have you delivered today?

  1. The Growth Manager

What do your employees aspire to achieve in their lives? What are their dreams? What new skills do they want to learn? What new experiences do they want to try? Welcome to your real role: The Growth Manager.

Develop the discipline to grow your people.

The ultimate motivator of employees is not money (they will always aspire for more; no one feels they have enough). The ultimate motivator is a sense of growth; the sense of learning something new and trying new things. Your employees aspire to grow and be better off than yesterday in both their personal and professional lives. Are you ready to assume your role as chief coach, inspirer, and growth manager? If you wish to unleash the power of your employees’ performance, you need to assume the role of the growth manager.

In a disciplined way, you need to discover and document your employees’ aspirations and develop a growth plan for each. When your employees see you as their chief coach and the provider of their goal-fulfillment, they will follow your leadership and help you achieve your goals, as well.

  1. Give Me a Cause to Volunteer For

The phenomenon is universal. Wherever you have a cause you’ll get volunteers. When the founder of Linux, the alternative operating system to Microsoft Windows, started to develop his new invention, he had no money or structure. All he had was a cause. The rest worked like magic. Thousands of software developers, who usually get paid handsomely for their advanced skills, volunteered their time and creativity to develop Linux. They believed in the cause of providing alternative solutions and giving customers a choice.

What difference can your employees make in your customers’ lives?
Always present a challenge to your employees as an opportunity to make a difference. A cause is an opportunity for your employees to feel powerful. It focuses on the power they do have and helps to make their work meaningful. Adding value to stockholders is not an appealing cause. Making people’s lives better will inspire employees. Transform your projects into causes and tap into the spirit of volunteering in your employees.