The Secret To Keeping Millennials Engaged

Millennial-bashing is all the rage these days. And while youngsters born after 1980 (or even after 1990) may have very different priorities from their elder coworkers, millennials are a huge part of the workforce and can’t be ignored or dismissed.

How do employers—not just accounting firms—go about keeping millennials engaged?

We recently put together a white paper entitled “How To Leverage the Potential of Adaptive Learners” for employers wrestling with this problem (swap out “adaptive learners” with “millennials” and you get the gist). It’s full of  ideas for keeping millennials engaged and for spotting who among them is likely to succeed.

In our mountains of research, we found some wonderful insights from Daniel Pink , author of the 2009 best-selling Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us .

(We like Mr. Pink not only for the Reservoir Dogs pun but also because he cites Animal Farm as one of his favorite books about work . Very cool.)

Today’s Workers Are Energized By Just 3 Things

And despite what you’re thinking, it’s not money. Or stock options. Or vacation days.

According to Mr. Pink (heheh), keeping millennials engaged is all about providing an environment that supports three things:

1. Autonomy – The Urge To Direct Our Own Lives

Image Credit: justintarte.com

This should be a no-brainer: Getting to do what you want to do is amazingly self-rewarding.

It feels awesome, right? Then why are so many of today’s job functions so prescribed?

Employers can support autonomy by giving people (yes, even millennials) real control over some (not all!) aspects of their work. You can begin to do this with your team by providing choice rather than delineation, feedback rather than approval, encouragement rather than doubt.

2. Mastery – The Desire To Get Better At Something

Image Credit: lonewolf.com

We all want to be good at stuff. It’s just in our nature and it’s why we get so frustrated when new things don’t come naturally.

That’s why work should instill a sense of progress. It’s the best strategy for keeping millennials engaged and driven.

In tactical terms, it means that an employer or manager should assign tasks that align with a person’s true abilities. Mr. Pink calls them Goldilocks tasks – neither too difficult nor too easy to accomplish. The trick is to give millennials the AUTONOMY and support to overcome small challenges and grow.

This requires paying closer attention to how employees are doing and feeling about their work.

3. Purpose – The Desire To Serve A Greater Cause

Image Credit: purposedriven.com

People who find purpose in their work are the most engaged and happiest. Mr. Pink says that connecting to a higher cause is what drives the deepest motivation and encourages people to tackle the biggest challenges.

Accounting is not Greenpeace. So, how can today’s employers foster a greater sense of purpose in workers (millennials and otherwise)?

Start by getting your employees to pull their heads out of the weeds, to get them out of the mere measurement of numbers. How does their work—even if it’s five hours of spreadsheets—connect them with other people? How are they helping others?

Financial planners could be helping to send someone’s daughter to college. These Briar Cliff University students are helping low-income earners file their taxes. It could be as simple as creating volunteer opportunities for your staff.

OK, What Else?

So, what do you think the secret to keeping millennials engaged is? What has/hasn’t worked for you?

And, in case you need a little levity in your day, the video “tutorial” below is a cute parody of what you may be dealing with out there …

 

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