Engaging the Millennial Workforce

The millennial generation is future-oriented, opportunity-driven and poised to makes its mark on the world. The ball is now in employers' courts as Gen Y takes over the global workforce, who in little more than 10 years, will comprise 75% of workers worldwide.

According to a recent report from Deloitte, what helps set millennials apart is their optimistic spirit in the midst of economic turmoil. However, Gen Yers are also highly restless having grown up in an era of rapid changed and instant gratification, which requires organizations to shift they way they attract and develop a talented millennial workforce.

While millennials appear to not be fond of fitting in a ‘corporate box,' it doesn’t mean that they are not willing to do their job. In fact it is exactly the opposite, as they are capable and available to go beyond the job description to become innovative entrepreneurs inside the company.

A survey conducted by the Young Entrepreneur Council showed that 92% of millennials between 21 and 24 years old, considered entrepreneurship education vital to survive and innovate in the new economy. The same study also showed that one in three had started some sort of business while in college and 35% were currently running a side business.

The dilemma for companies is whether to embrace their entrepreneurial spirit, or force millennials to fit into the 9-5 office life, and most likely see many of them leaving after few months.

Opportunities and Challenges for Employers

millennials are highly involved in company’s activities and their contribution goes far beyond what they are asked to do. They often want to know where their work is going and the impact it has. According to Deloitte's study, Gen Yers' motivation to participate comes from factors that have little do with salary (important only for 28.5%). What does promote a participation culture among millennial workers is awareness, development strategies and collaboration.

A challenge for companies is that these workers are also extremely mobile and open to new opportunities. In fact, while 69% of respondents said they were satisfied with their current role, one in two said they would be willing to exit the company within two years.

In the short-term, 61.6% of respondents indicated they could be inclined to stick around based on a salary increase. As for the long-term, effective retention strategies should focus on real-time feedback as well as flexible (80%) and mobile working schedules (89%).

With adaptation and innovation becoming even more urgent business priorities, combining the tech savvy and fresh insight of Generation Y with the experience and perspective of the older generations can be fruitful for any employer. Although millennial workers expect competitive pay, they highly value meaningful development opportunities like partnering with older, more experienced colleagues and bosses that they can learn from.

Further, Gen Yers are a more diverse and inclusive generation compared to previous ones, well trained to collaborate and work with teams -- one of the most critical and desired skills in a highly specialized global economy. But if traditional organizations aren't prepared to harness this restless generation of workers, and if Gen Yers feel they don't lack opportunities to contribute, they're likely to move on in search of growth elsewhere.

One option for employers is to redesign performance management and rewards systems to encourage the rapid development of millennials and to create new incentives for seasoned workers to act as mentors to young talented professionals.

The Next Steps

Employers need to think in bigger terms than a paycheck.

By making a realistic assessment of what they are offering to the Gen Y talent-pool, they will be able to recruit and retain those workers. Companies need to develop a culture of collaboration and innovation across all levels of the organization, and have programs for increased training, trusting, teaching and teamwork. In adopting these changes, it is crucial that management constantly keeps track of the progress.

Companies can certainly expect great things from millennials, but the leadership will need to take on the role of enabling and supporting the ideas and initiatives of this new powerhouse generation.