AMHVoices: Employee engagement for millennials

A research by Deloitte projected that by 2025 millenials will make up 75% of the global workforce. This inevitable influx of millenials is already in full motion in Zimbabwe and it has the power to transform the workplace

Varying social characteristics and generational differences in the workplace are one of the features signified by this influx. This growth of millennials in the workplace has also been earmarked by differences in job expectations and job commitment.

Millennials are the generation born between 1982 and sometime in the early 2000. Conventional wisdom suggests that millenials have a drastically different outlook on what they expect from their employment experience as compared to the older generation.

Millennials are well educated, techy savvy and very ambitious. They have high expectations for themselves, they seek challenges and desire speedy advancement in their careers. Moreover they value work life balance because of their high need for social interaction with colleagues and family. What they want in a job is meaningful work and to stay with an organization that helps them grow and develop.

On the other hand millenials in the job market are held to be inexperienced, easily distracted and not patient enough. This might be due to high levels of unemployment which delay getting a job but however millenials have their top priority is acquiring experience, career growth and personal development. Beyond compensation and benefits, what also matters to them is the company’s work culture, work environment, organizational goals and vision.

By virtue of advancement in technology, millennials are digital natives who have the ability to bring considerable value to work environments in the midst of a digital revolution. Hence employers need to understand what motivates millennials and what type of work environment will enable them to flourish. Most young people are coming to work with great enthusiasm, but old management practices, career stagnation, toxic organizational politics grinds the life out of them.

This calls for HR practitioners and management to devise favourable employee engagement initiatives for millenials because they are one group that likes to question and comment on everything which affects them. What this entails for organisations is the need to implement effective employee engagement initiatives targeted at different demographics in the workplace.

Employment engagement is one of the most fundamental workplace elements which is predictive of business outcomes such as productivity, employee turnover and customer perceptions of service. It is defined as the emotional attachment employees feel towards their place of work, job role, position within the company and workplace culture.

Organizations that truly engage and inspire their employees produce world class levels of innovation and service, productivity and enhanced performance, which result in competitive advantage.

According to a study by Gallup a leading global analytics company, employee disengagement has serious consequences with USA reporting an average of US$500 billion that goes down the drain every year and the UK having lost between US$83-112billion. If advanced economies like these can lose so much one can only imagine how much Zimbabwe is losing through disengaged employees.

Since millenials are an inquisitive generation with high aspirations, to continuously keep them engaged organizations should change from having command and control managers to high performance coaches. There is need for a movement from bosses to high performance coaches, who guide and develop young people to high performers. Why high-performance coaches? It is because millennials demand development over satisfaction.

Instead of being commandeered millennials prefer to participate in decision making, suggesting and giving reviews about their experiences. In order to accommodate this employers must adjust the workplace environment and team structures to keep the young generation engaged. Rather than having a top down approach, a bottom up approach will give results because what needs to be changed is experienced by the young people in the grassroots.

Integrating employee engagement into a company’s strategic goals is the way to enact these needed changes so as to create and maintain an agile business which can respond to age dynamics in the workplace. If organisations wish to motivate and engage their workforce, a one-size fits all approach will not work in this era dominated by young people.

When also dealing with millenials, organisations should have an idea of the engagement drivers within their workplaces and ensure that they work to increase positive perceptions of the drivers that generate an increase in engagement. On the other hand, engagement threats which lead to a decrease in the driver of positive perception should be identified and eliminated in order to increase employee engagement.

A list of drivers and threats that can be pinpointed are career opportunities employee health and well-being; employer reputation; learning and development; managing performance; senior leadership, and work-life balance.

When it comes to employee engagement for millennials, measurement alone will not give positive results without action being taken by HR practitioners and managers who should be equipped with skills and tools to psychologically engage their teams and improve how they apply their body and minds in the workplace.

Article co-authored by Freeman Pasurai (BSc Hons HRM and Dip in HRM) and Ezekiel Nyoni (B Eng, M Eng PHD Mech Eng candidate at the University of Johannesburg). For contact email freemenpasurai01@gmail.com and ezekielnyoni@gmail.com

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