Engage! How to Motivate Millennial Employees
July 20, 2016


Millennial employees now make up the majority of the American work force, and of course dominate the entry-level labor force. They are also beginning to make their mark on the lower and middle rungs of management, with the oldest Millennials now in their mid-30s. A recent Gallup poll, How Millennials Want to Work and Live, takes a statistical dive into the Millennial work force. What they found may be invaluable to employers looking to motivate millennial employees.

Here are some of the highlights of the Gallup study, with our thoughts:

Millennials are not very bound to their current employers, compared to other generations.

That’s the headline that Gallup put on this section of their study. Of course, this is to be expected. Older workers who have been with their employers for longer are enjoying some of the benefits of seniority. The younger Millennial workers are still trying to find their place.

55 percent of Millennials report not being engaged with their employers and industries – more than Gen Xers (50 percent) and Baby Boomers (48 Percent). Only 29 percent of Millennials report feeling “engaged,” compared to 32 percent and 33 percent for Gen Xers and Baby Boomers, respectively.

Dig a little deeper and you’ll find something interesting: Millennials were less likely to be “actively disengaged” from their job and company compared to Gen Xers and Baby Boom Employees.

16 percent of Millennials report being actively disengaged from their employers – which Gallup defines as “more or less out to do damage to their company.”

This actually compares favorably with Gen Xers, 18 percent of whom report being actively disengaged, and 19 percent of Baby Boomers, who are still looking for ways to stick it to The Man.

Millennial Turnover Costs $30.5 Billion Every Year.

 Employers are struggling with the costs of millennial turnover. About one out of every five Millennials have left their jobs to do something else in the last year, researchers found. That’s more than three times higher than the job-hop rate of non-Millennials.

Furthermore, about 6 in 10 Millennials report they are open to new job opportunities – which is also a much higher figure than it is for older workers. Which one would expect, of course, given seniority-related advantages of pension vesting, tenure and the accumulation of promotions.

36 percent of Millennials say they will seek a new job in a new company in the next year, if the job market improves. Only 21 percent of other workers say they will.

Now that we’ve defined “engagement,” and you can see the costs of poor engagement with Millennials, as measured by turnover, we’re ready to turn to the crux of the matter: Leadership.

Managers Should Stay Engaged With Millennials

Millennial workers seem to value regular feedback from their bosses. Consider: Among those Millennial workers who have regular meetings with their managers, 44 percent of them report feeling ‘engaged’ with their work and employer.

Among Millennials who report they do not have regular meetings with their bosses, the percentage of those who feel engaged with their employers is less than half that figure: 20 percent.

In this regard, employers are dropping the ball. Here is a prime opportunity to increase the ‘engagement’ metric when it comes to Millennial employees, who are craving some coaching and mentorship from their leaders. But only 21 percent of Millennials say they are meeting with their manager on a weekly basis or better. Most of them only meet monthly, or even less frequently.

To motivate Millennial employees, then, and to retain them for the long haul, employers must insist that managers do not hide behind their desks. Managers should be fully engaged with workers, providing regular feedback, counseling, discipline, advice and leadership.

You would think this would be basic, but there are too many weak managers using up valuable oxygen. Find leaders rather than managers, and promote them, with appropriate training and support, and you may well be able to double your engagement with Millennial workers – potentially saving a bundle in turnover-associated costs, among other benefits.

Other research confirms this. One idea is to rely less on annual performance reviews. They are counterproductive, and some young employees – quite rightly, in our view – don’t want to wait a whole year for an annual performance review before they get real feedback about their performance.

They are more likely to be Democrats than Republicans… but more likely to be “independent” than either.

Yes, Millennials are all over the Bernie Sanders campaign as of this writing. But only 28 percent of them – less than one in three – identifies as a Democrat, according to Gallup researchers. Which is ok, neither did Senator Sanders until a few months ago!

A large plurality of Millennials – 44 percent – identify as politically independent. That’s a much larger figure than the number of independents for Gen Xers (37 percent) and Baby Boomers (32 percent.)

Only 19 percent of Millennials identify as Republican. Not surprisingly, they are less likely to be Republicans than either Gen X employees (26 percent) and Baby Boomers (28 percent).

What Millennials Look For in an Employer

 More than other generations, Millennial workers valued “opportunities to learn and grow” in a job compared to their older colleagues. This is to be expected from younger workers who are just getting established in their careers. They also emphasize upward mobility and opportunity for advancement to a much greater degree than their older colleagues, while older workers are more likely to value job security.