Win the Millennial Engagement Game

It isn’t a new thing for generation gaps to cause challenges in the workplace.

We’ve all heard it lamented before:

“Millennials are difficult to manage.”

Popular opinion depicts them as self-interested and having a poor work ethic. Not great for Millennials and not great for you as a business owner.

But is this commonly held opinion true? If we dug a little deeper, I think we’d find that this stereotypical perception of Millennials (defined loosely as those born from 1982 onwards), doesn’t necessarily hold, and certainly doesn’t have to be true in your workplace.

Some interesting facts about Millennials:

    • They’re deeply cause related. Once they care about something they are very invested, whether it’s a social issue, mobile app or workplace.


    • They’re natural activists. Millennials are more activist than their Gen X / Baby Boomer predecessors (except maybe for when the Baby Boomers were younger and were called “Hippies”).


    • The numbers are on their side. Millennials will form the majority of the global workforce in the next 10 to 20 years, as Baby Boomers retire and Gen Xers move into senior management. We need to get used to (and good at) engaging them in the workplace, particularly in service-based industries like hospitality, retail and customer service.


So how do you win the Millennial engagement game?

There’s no perfect formula. Every business has to take into account its unique dynamic and business model. But here are a few tried and true principles you can apply to working with Millennials in your team.

1. Give them something to own.

Whether it’s a section in a restaurant or an internal idea or project they’re passionate about, help your Millennial staff find something they can take ownership of. This is a huge step to engaging them in the workplace.

Make them responsible for something within the business that they can succeed in. Keep them accountable but give them the freedom to create a solution in their own way. It might involve taking a different approach to yours, but if it achieves the desired outcome then you get the result you wanted AND gain a loyal employee in the process.

2. Create collective responsibility.

In an age where social media increasingly takes the place of in-person interaction, you’d be surprised how many Millennials crave authentic community and personal relationship. Real world interactions have taken on a whole new meaning and present employers with an opportunity to engage their teams for the benefit of their business.

Take time to have all-hands meetings where you share frustrations or successes with the group. Invite them to contribute how to solve the problem or maintain good momentum. You’ll be surprised at the ideas generated and potentially see things from new angles. More importantly, when employees contribute to an idea, they’re more invested and accountable in helping those ideas succeed.

Think of it this way: Remember in school when you’d do group activities and the teacher would ask you what rules should be in place for the activity? The whole group had to agree on each rule, and as a result, everyone was responsible for adhering to the rules, because you’d all agreed on them. Same principle at work.

3. Create internal brand evangelists.

Inviting team members to help recruit new staff or customers, and rewarding them for doing so is a brilliant way of growing your business. In the same way that your team craves authentic interactions in a social media world, so do your potential staff and customers.

Brand evangelists are the best advertising — they have real experience of why it’s so great to be a part of your organisation.

And this doesn’t just have the capacity to win over potential employees. Studies have shown that customers who see a company as a fantastic place to work, have greater loyalty to that company when purchasing goods or services.

So how do you create brand evangelists?

Cultivate great team culture. Have FUN. And then incentivise your team for bringing in customers or sharing job posts on social media or via text with friends. Use tools, like Nect’s customizable application forms, that make it easy to identify referrals and reward staff with small bonuses or gift cards.

It’s true that a lot of these principles are things workers of other generations would respond to, perhaps in different formats or with different motivating factors. And that’s a good thing because that’s something you’re in control of: harnessing and developing your ability as a leader to motivate, encourage and inspire your team in ways that they can relate to.

Go get ’em tiger.

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