Blog | Don’t Just Hug Your Millennials - Why You Need To Take A Multigenerational Approach To engagement
We’ve all read about the rise of Millennials in the workforce – and that they have a different, distinct approach to work compared to previous generations. According to the Brookings Institution 75% of employees in 2025 will be Millennials, and figures show that they want the chance to give and receive feedback much more regularly.
We also know that Millennials are different to Generation X, the cohort that preceded them. They are digital natives, value flexibility in how they work, and most of all are looking for a purpose in the job they do, and the employer they do it for.
However, despite their rise they are far from being the only group in the workforce. In fact, as working lives extend companies are now potentially employing five generations:
- Silent Generation: Those born between 1925 and 1944
- Baby Boomers: Those born between World War II and early 1960s
- Generation X: Those born between early 1960s and 1980
- Millennials: Those born between 1980 and mid 1990s
- Generation Z: Those born after mid 1990s and who are now entering the workforce
The behaviour of all of these generations is changing and evolving as they come into contact with each other, whether as colleagues, relatives or friends. And, despite certain traits being stronger in certain generations, every employee is different, and if you fail to treat staff as individuals then you are likely to alienate them and drive them away. So rather than taking a Millennial-first approach to engagement, companies need to look more broadly and ensure they are creating a dialogue with everyone, by focusing on four key areas:
1. Ensure that every employee’s voice is heard
Nothing annoys and disengages staff more than being asked for their opinion and then it being ignored. Therefore, companies need to open a dialogue with their employees, with a direct link to action planning, so that staff can either see how their feedback has been used to drive change, or the reasons it has been not been taken forward. Traditional annual employee surveys are too infrequent to create this dialogue, particularly given the long delays that often occur between fieldwork and results being shared with the business. Feeling valued by being heard drives greater engagement, whatever generation an employee belongs to, helping to increase satisfaction, productivity and retention.
2. Make it easy and natural to give feedback
Whether they are digital natives or digital migrants, employees want to share their opinions and feedback. After all, in their private lives they are used to reviewing the goods and services they buy, and commenting on the experiences they receive on social media, across all age groups. So make it as easy as possible for them to share their feedback with you, through their device of choice, such as their own smartphone, whenever it is convenient to them. This could be through always-on feedback apps, online communities where they can take part in discussions or surveys, or asking their co-workers for their views through quickly created mini-surveys. If you don’t provide these opportunities to share the danger is that these conversations will still happen – but on networks that are out of your control such as closed social media groups and message boards, where the findings are hidden from you.
3. Demonstrate the purpose of their job
Older employees are staying on longer, while the gig economy is driving unparalleled flexibility in how every generation works. To attract and retain talent companies need to show employees that they are valued, and that the job they do is a crucial building block of company success. Whether they are frontline customer service staff, executives or middle managers their behaviour impacts the experience that consumers receive, and thus directly links to the financial bottom line. Measure the fit and understanding between workers and your company strategy and values, and ensure that they see the importance of their role in the overall strategy of the business. This will increase motivation and alignment, and therefore boost performance and longer term retention, creating ambassadors in your workforce.
4. Treat them as individuals
Amidst all the talk of generations it is easy to lose sight of the fact that every employee is an individual, with their own personality, strengths and weaknesses. Therefore, don’t pigeonhole them by age or experience, but take the time to understand them as people. This could be through one-to-one sessions, mentoring or training. Overall it is essential to see beyond the stereotypes if you are going to get the best out of your people.
Whatever generation they belong to, all your employees are important. Therefore, make sure you create a dialogue with every one of them in a way that fits their needs and maximises their engagement at work. Don’t just hug your Millennials – remember we all need a hug sometimes.