By Tanner Corbridge, author and expert on driving organizational results through purpose and culture
- Millennials have already passed GenXers and Baby Boomers as the largest generation in the US workforce.
- According to Gallup, 71% of millennials are not engaged or actively disengaged at work.
- The same study shows that 60% of millennials are actively considering new employment opportunities right now.
Setting aside the cost of the engagement, consider just the cost of such levels of turnover amongst millennials. Recent studies estimate the cost at upwards of $25,000 per employee lost.
As a firm that has studied engagement in the workforce for 30 years, we posit a deceptively simple solution, which has been reconfirmed time and again by over 2,700 client assessments: Increasing engagement amongst your millennials requires that you actively listen to and respond to them. This point is critical!
The price of ignoring your talented millennials is that you'll likely lose them. Conversely, 64% of millennials who are engaged at work say they are less likely to switch jobs if the job market improves in the next 12 months.
Engaging millennial workers seems like a simple fix, so why don't more leaders do it?
The Dangerous Leadership Mindset Holding You Back from Engaging Millennials
The challenge leaders face with engaging millennial employees isn't lack of technology or not enough time. These excuses are copouts. To understand why leaders don't do more to engage millennials, we must first challenge an inherent belief about what it takes to make a good leader.
In many organizations, leaders are driven by an archaic, even cancerous philosophy that has its roots in the industrial and military influences of our country. This managerial mindset goes simply like this: "The boss knows best."
But the truth is that the best decisions are made by those with the most data points.
Leaders who believe they know best--even those with good interpersonal skills who might be able to disguise this thinking--do not gain access to the data points and information that he or she needs to innovate in the right direction. This is true of even very intelligent leaders.
Ironically, the person blind to the greater truth is the leader who believes he or she has all the answers. Ego and pride blinds leaders into believing their view of the world is the accurate view--when "the accurate view" doesn't actually exist.
How Engaging Millennial Workers Drives an Organization Forward
In contrast to this ego-driven mindset, humble, vulnerable leaders are more intelligent leaders simply because they have access to more intelligence.
About 150 years ago, military troops went to battle with soldiers standing in a straight line, with no protection, firing at each other. Over time, these less effective methods for going to battle have been replaced by more effective ones.
Progress like this happens when leaders listen to their people: when they hear the voice of those who produce the product or service or those who interact with your customers every day. Leaders who incorporate these voices and experiences into the business strategy better understand the adjustments and innovations that are needed to drive an organization forward.
One Manufacturer Gains a Competitive Advantage by Engaging Millennial Workers
Where they have influence, millennials inspire social and technological changes in the workforce like no other generation before them.
We've seen one of the largest auto manufacturers in the world adopt a cultural shift within their organization that centers, in part, on elevating the innovate and fresh ideas from their millennial ranks.
They listen to and reward millennial workers for their ideas in meaningful and fresh ways. It's a deceptively simple, yet profoundly impactful strategy when working to create competitive advantage. They are beginning to win this battle--and shareholders are seeing the rewards.
They know that whichever company makes the quickest shift from "Mechanical Engineering" to "Software Engineering" wins the technology race in the automotive space--a shift that can be accelerated by hearing the fresh and innovative ideas from millennial workers.
The Loyalty Paradox
If you listen for it, you'll hear a grand paradox taking shape in the workforce: while 82% of millennials say they are loyal to their employers, only 1% of HR professionals describe millennials as loyal to their employers.
This is a problem because it speaks to an inherently unfair confirmation bias, working against many millennial employees. Millennials want and need to be heard. The key to engaging millennial workers is to foster an "ego-less" culture, intentionally seeking out and being open to their perspectives. Companies that do this win big--in better innovations, higher employee engagement, and ultimately organizational results.