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Blog : Leadership must act now to engage millennials

Blog

Leadership must act now to engage millennials


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By Rebecca Handley, Marketing Executive at Purple Cubed

According to The Washington Post, 10,000 baby boomers are retiring every day. This leaves a big leadership gap to be filled by those now ‘coming of age’ as leaders; the Millennials. For this to happen they must be engaged – if not inspired by a sense of purpose and excited to contribute, why would they want to bother becoming a leader? 

According to a paper published by Gallup last year, Millennials are “altering the very social fabric” of the world. 

However, Gallup found that millennials are the least engaged generation (only 29%, compared to Gen Xers, 32%, and Baby Boomers, 33%) and more likely to be open to different job opportunities as a result of this. 

So how can leaders ensure that the largest proportion of the workforce doesn’t check-out of their organisation?

Gallup’s study highlighted some critical changes that leadership need to make now to retain their millennial talent:

1. Millennials are pursuing development, not job satisfaction

Free food and Ping-Pong tables will no longer cut it with millennials. They’re ambitious and crave purpose and development. More impatient than their generational predecessors, they have a thirst for knowledge which they won’t stand for not being met. This can be overcome by implementing low-cost/no-cost learning opportunities such as job swaps, mentoring with senior leaders and so on. 

2. Millennials want ongoing conversations, not just annual reviews

In a world where information is free-flowing and real-time, feedback needs to be too. Millennials are digital natives and expect constant communication and feedback. Whilst there is still a place for the annual review, if done right, there also needs to be an ongoing conversation for Millennials to feel they are developing as individuals.

3. Millennials work for purpose, not just a pay cheque

For Millennials, money is no longer a main driver. They want to contribute to and improve the world so working somewhere with a real mission and purpose within their culture is vital for engaging millennials.

4. Millennials want to develop their strengths, not fix their weaknesses

Millennials are ambitious, craving development and progression. Whilst leaders should work with employees to minimise their weaknesses, organisations should be moving towards strengths-based cultures to attract & retain their talent. As Gallup’s research found that “weaknesses never develop into strengths, whilst strengths can develop infinitely.”

5. Millennials want their own yoda, not a boss

Millennials require strong coaches and role models. They expect to be respected and treated as the adults they are. If they feel like they aren’t getting this from their workplace, they will go elsewhere. So, leaders will need to show they value their employees and help them to build their strengths.

It’s important not to get too pedantic about generation theory, although it does help to explain how individuals born within one generation (approximately a 20 year period) will have a different view of the world to those born in another.

Each generation is shaped by differing economic, environmental and social norms. Because of the advances in technology, this has speeded up and so it’s widely thought that those born in the mid-90s (now termed Generation Z) are already different from their predecessors in Generation Y (those often termed ‘Echo Boomers’ (the children of Boomers who often echo their opinions). 

As explained so beautifully at a recent Purple Breakfast Club Panel debate by Amy Sawbridge, Brand Director and Head of Employee Experience at Virgin, “Millennials are a psychographic, not a demographic.” Whilst Millennials are a generational cohort, it is also the modern state of mind that is changing the world of work. This creates an even more significant need for organisations to define what leadership looks like in their company in order to transcend these generational barriers.

More so than ever, employees are asking, ‘Does this organisation value my strengths, my contribution and does it allow me to demonstrate this every day?’ For many employees, a job is no longer just a job, it’s part of where they find purpose, and business leaders' need to listen up and get in-tune with the needs of today’s workforce – before it’s too late.

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