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Creating Meaningfulness for Millennial Workers

by Eric Baker
on 2016-06-09

With Millennial-age employees becoming the largest generational group in the workforce, senior leaders are dying to know: What do they want? How do we keep them from job hopping? What planet are they from? These young people are going to be running things soon, so we need to find out if we can trust them.

Let’s address the last concern first: Millennials are from right here on Earth and maybe, just maybe, are tired of being talked about as an enigmatic, monolithic entity. What they want is the same thing Generation X and Baby  Boomer workers want, which is a job that feels worthwhile. And what do companies need to do to stop them from job hopping? Stop asking that question and start acting, because the answer already exists.

Companies need to provide a work environment that makes people want to stay.

A Google search on “what Millennial workers want” will turn up a lot of similar articles about work-life balance, constructive and valuable feedback from their managers, and meaningful work. Interestingly, and perhaps alarmingly, many of the articles targeted at younger workers tell them they won’t get those things working for someone else, so they should consider starting their own businesses.

Surely companies know by now that good work-life balance equates to better productivity and that good coaching and feedback leads to higher levels of employee engagement. Fostering a culture of meaningfulness will further ensure job satisfaction and motivation across a new generation of employees.

A big part of “meaningfulness” is strong two-way communication. Including employees in decision-making and process development, and showing them how their work benefits the company when integrated with the efforts of other team members or departments, are among the best ways to build meaning into the workday.

Some dimensions of meaning go beyond the specifics of a given job. Issues related to sustainability and corporate citizenship tend to resonate with younger workers especially, and a lot of organizations are falling behind in those areas. By putting together a task force led by Millennial employees to solve sustainability challenges and improve corporate responsibility, the benefits to a company could go far beyond simply keeping people engaged.

For Millennials’ part, they need to bring positivity, energy, and an education, as well as an understanding that not all aspects of a job will be fun or inspiring. Sometimes you gotta bust out that spreadsheet and start plugging in numbers, or do whatever it is that doesn’t motivate you but is still part of getting the job done. Potential concerns about job expectations and responsibilities should be addressed before a hiring agreement is reached.

Next time, we’ll go into greater detail about managing individuals in today’s multigenerational workforce.