With a steady increase in employable candidates, and the continued exodus of baby boomers, millennials are now in a position to have a major influence on their workplaces. But according to a recent study by Gallup, only 29% of millennials are engaged at work. This shouldn’t come as a surprise; millennials make no secret as to what they feel makes a workplace engaging. They want challenging, rewarding work in a team-oriented culture. Based on the knowledge above, it doesn’t hurt to ask: Are you actively molding your team dynamics to meet millennials’ expectations? Are you working on the transition from a ‘command and control’ structure to a network of cooperative and inclusive teams?
If the answer to the questions above is “no”, don’t fret, you don’t need a full overhaul of your business model to improve employee engagement and sense of fulfilment of your impact-driven millennial employees. Here are 6 easy ways to make your team millennial-friendly.
1. Empower small, agile project teams
In today’s fast-paced, global business environment, maximizing value streams is key to maintaining a competitive edge. To do so, organizations often prioritize increasing their margins through best practices and efficiency. However younger employees tend to derive value from innovation and continuous results. But it is possible to be cost-efficient and millennial-friendly at the same time. To do so organize work into small projects owned by agile, flexible teams. Agile teams operate in a low-cost environment. They quickly address problems with solutions by bringing together business improvement concepts with customers and senior level colleagues.
By operating in project-mode, you create an ecosystem that meets 3 millennial needs:
- fast-track expansion of their capabilities,
- regular opportunities to recognize contribution,
- exposure to leadership management.
2. Adopt transparency in communication and leverage popular mediums
In a world where work can be done anytime, anywhere, accurate and fluid communication can be a challenge for any organization. Your young, socially-connected workforce expects information to be widely available in a timely fashion. For them, transparency from top to bottom creates a sense of collaboration. Collaborative discussions and open-feedback loops will be helpful if you want to make your team millennial-friendly. Another efficient way to build trust across the organization is to bring strategic messages closer to employees. Video technology allows executives to share a strategic message directly with their teams. Why not create a short “welcome” video from your CEO for new hires? Or take advantage of live video and share short messages in real-time?
3. Flatten organizational structures
A well-known contributor of employee engagement is a sense that an individual’s contributions have influence on the success of an organization as a whole. A good way to achieve this is to give your millennials the freedom to be part of the decision-making process. If your organizational structure doesn’t allow a collaborative process for decisions, you risk deflating your young talents’ sense of leadership.
Take the Swedish company, Spotify, for example: Spotify creates engagement by balancing autonomy and accountability.
“Spotify’s core organizational unit is an autonomous squad of no more than eight people, […] accountable for a discrete aspect of the product […] Several squads (are) linked together through a chapter, which is a horizontal grouping that helps to support specific competencies […]. Leadership within the squad is self-determined, while the chapter leader is a formal manager who focuses on coaching and mentoring.”
Spotify’s horizontal structure redistributes decision-making across employees, in contrast to traditional top-down, hierarchical models. This results in faster response times while simultaneously holding employees accountable for their ideas. Not ready for a full overhaul? Not to worry, it’s still possible to reinforce your employees’ sense of responsibility and autonomy without undertaking a total business transformation. Small changes in your operating model can indicate that you value cross-functional collaboration over typical management control. For instance, you can empower teams to discover best practice methods, and encourage adoption of these approaches from the bottom up. Or ask team leaders to embrace a coaching mindset that aligns with millennials’ need for regular feedback.
4. Change the focus of your meetings
With the always-connected nature of millennials, massive amounts of information is consistently at their fingertips. And with the expectation that this information is to be digested and distilled into valuable bits to present to a team, establishing a well-defined focus for team meetings can create an environment ripe for actively exchanging ideas. According to the 2016 Deloitte millennial survey, the ideal millennial workweek includes 4.6 hours spent discussing ideas and new ways of working. An easy way to make your team millennial-friendly is to carve out some time for “thought showers”; open discussions on lessons learned and continuous improvement. Alternatively, you can increase their sense of contribution by giving your young talent a spotlight to share their perspectives on a topic or cause they’re passionate about, or a cause they care strongly about.
5. Rethink flexibility
Flexibility is often seen as ‘flexi-time’ and work-from-home practices. These are elements of a culture of trust, and known factors in talent retention. But flexibility can, and should, go far beyond this. What about encouraging flexibility of ideas, and diversity of thought? An “open-door policy” towards new ideas embeds a culture of collaboration, innovation, and equality. At the same time, mentoring programs encourage cross-pollination of skills across generations, making employees more adaptable to rapidly changing business objectives. Promoting cultural intelligence within global teams brings various creative perspectives together. A millennial-friendly team is flexible in the way it operates, and in the way its members think.
6. Make the team work for a higher cause
Team building significantly helps to retain talent, according to 79% of millennials polled by The Go Game. But for a young workforce that takes pride in contributing to wider causes, team building activities must go to the next level. 76% of millennials regard businesses as a force for positive social impact. You can make your teams millennial-friendly by organizing charity days, or better yet, offering ‘volunteering leave’ so employees can partake in people-centric activities (e.g. involvement in LGBT or corporate responsibility). By supporting such initiatives, you show that the team is, first and foremost, a group who share similar human values. A small set of actions is all it takes to get started making your team millennial-friendly. Initiatives that connect directly to your young talents’ sense of purpose are easy to introduce but highly rewarding. These include improving collaboration across teams, fostering a sense of contribution, encouraging millennials to take responsibility, and enhancing transparency at all levels of the organization.
Now, what if you want to take employee engagement to a deeper level? Young generations want their values to be shared by the organizations they work for. So involve your millennials in office culture improvement, by giving them the freedom to find creative ways to internally promote your set of core values.