A few weeks ago, I was having breakfast with one of the area’s most successful sales directors – her sales team has close to 100 reps across the country – but she was explaining her troubles with millennials. (In full disclosure, I’m a millennial, but she told me I’m not like a lot of other millennials.) What she really wanted to know was this: how do I engage millennials?
She’s not alone. I’ve consulted with dozens of people in their 40’s, 50’s, and 60’s who are running organizations, building sales teams, or starting a business, and they all seem to want to know the secret to engaging millennials.
Rule #1 – Embrace Youthfulness
It drives millennials crazy when they are constantly reminded they are much younger than you. Even if you have an employee who is close to the same age as your kids, don’t bring it up. Millennials, especially ones that you employ, don’t want to be thought of as one of your kids or the same as all other millennials. They want to stand alone.
Instead, realize that millennials are building a personal brand and customizing their ideal life. Through their work environment, their social media, and their side gigs, they are embracing technologies in ways that most other generations can’t comprehend. Millennials may not have accomplished as much as you may have, yet they realize that technology has created multiple paths to success and they are willing to embrace them all.
Rule #2 – Embrace Appreciation
Showing respect should go without saying, but I think many people honestly don’t realize they’re being disrespectful. Here are some things not to say to millennials: “I have pants older than you” or, “I’ve been doing this since (fill in the blank) was President” (yes, I’ve heard these used quite frequently by baby boomers). These will inevitably drive millennials away from your organization.
Instead, show them respect by saying, “I appreciate all the hard work you did” or, “Thank you for helping our organization grow”. Even if you don’t think so, millennials want to feel a sense of ownership where they work. They are just like you when you were starting out. Noticing and appreciating their contributions, no matter how small, shows respect and will help engage millennials.
Rule #3 – Embrace Technology
If you aren’t super tech savvy, it’s okay! Most millennials are great in this department and are more than willing to help you. Usually, millennials don’t mind showing others how to use technology that may be second nature to them. Steer clear from saying, “You’re young, so you should be good with technology”.
Instead, to engage millennials, and specifically their IT help, try saying, “Could you show me how to (fill in the blank with your most common IT request) so I can figure out how to do this on my own”. Try to validate them when you ask for help. Your request could be as simple as determining why your WiFi shut off, why your printer isn’t working, or where your most recent download was saved.
Rule #4 – Embrace Feedback
Everyone is (and continues to be) exposed to hundreds of types of advertising, technologies, and communications every day. Perhaps social media is to blame, but feedback has become instantaneous and far too easy to distribute. Embrace that millennials grew up in an era that constantly solicits immediate feedback. It seems like everyone has an opinion, too! Millennials are definitely not an exception as they account for a majority of comments across various social platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. However, their feedback shouldn’t be misconstrued as entitlement behavior.
Instead consider that one or two millennials represent a massive audience that you may want to consider employing, targeting, or engaging. Also consider that they represent a majority of a technology facing population and their feedback can help improve your organization.
Rule #5 – Embrace Teamwork
Don’t ask millennials to do the “unwanted projects” with an explanation like, “Can you do this for me? It’s below my pay grade”. This could apply to data entry, filing paperwork, or any other job that you might feel is a great learning exercise for a young person who’s new in the business. (It’s okay if these of all are true!) However, it’s probably not the best way to get a millennial excited to come to work the next day.
Instead, spend a few minutes and explain how the task or project fits in with the company mission and goals. Millennials want to feel like part of the team.
Helping millennials see how their role helps better the company or fit into their professional development will go a long way in engaging them.
Have you had a lot of success attracting and retaining millennials in your business? What are some other rules you have developed for engaging millennials?