Guess what? There isn’t one.
Over the past year, I have read countless articles claiming that “this trick will engage your Millennial employees”, or “This is what Millennial employees want”. Honestly, if I have to read another one of these my head might explode. While there are some good insights in some of these articles, overall, I think many of them are a bunch of nonsense.
Now before your head explodes, give me a second to explain why I feel this way and why I am somewhat qualified to speak about this.
I am a(n older) Millennial.
So is my baby brother who is eleven and a half years my junior. We fall into the same generational grouping, but believe me, we are quite different. If my brother, who has recently started college, was looking for a job, I can guarantee that the things he wanted out that job would be drastically different than what I want, and most importantly: need. He would likely be looking for something that allowed him to have a little extra spending money to hang out with his frat brothers in between classes. Whereas I need something that will allow me to pay off my student loans, my home, and allows for an acceptable level of work-life balance so that I can potentially think about having children of my own in the not-so-far-off future. He likes numbers and science, whereas I like to be able to create engaging and beautiful things. We are both driven but in completely different ways.
As you can see, there is a problem here. We are different, but since we fall into some arbitrary grouping, we are viewed in the same way. This is fundamentally wrong.
Your employees are all human beings (unless they are literally machines, which the point of engagement falls short on those anyway).
Humans may share some very significant similarities in both physical and mental capacities, but at the end of the day, no one is truly the same.
Every person out there is who he or she is due to a collection of unique experiences. No two people’s paths through life are exactly the same. Therefore, each person is unique. No wonder a one-size-fits-all approach to anything, especially engagement, will almost always fail. If it wasn’t failing, there wouldn’t be so many of these “keys to engagement” articles. If it was working, employee engagement wouldn’t be one ofthe top challenges for HR departments across the globe.
Employee engagement does not start in HR.
Nor does it start in the boardroom. Employee engagement starts with managers and those who oversee the employees on the frontline. No one truly has more of an ability to listen to your employees than the person that interacts with them on a daily basis. If an employee doesn’t seem engaged, here’s a trick to solve it: ask them what needs or wants are not being met.
If they can’t feed their children, pay their rent/mortgage etc., then they might need more compensation to make them engaged. Stressing about money is a sure-fire way to lose engagement in one’s work. If they feel that they are overworked and underappreciated, show them that they mean something to the company with some form of recognition. No one wants to feel unappreciated regardless of his or her age. Depending on what answers you get, there can be many different tactics to use in order to fulfill those wants.
Many people enjoy what they do. That being said, people do not (usually) work for enjoyment unless they volunteer or they own a company. People work because they want to survive. The world is hard and “Millennials” are not blind to that. Neither are boomers or Gen Xers. If you want to engage your employees, take the time to listen to them. It will likely be a lot less time consuming – and not to mention a lot less expensive, to implement practices that actually fulfill employees needs instead of some magical blanket approach that leaves them less engaged than before.
Columns reflect the opinions of the contributor and do not necessarily reflect the views of Human Resources IQ.