Let's face it: engaging Millennials is not working. All sort of businesses are struggling to make themselves 'Millennial friendly' and, believe me, flashing our lights will not look like a landing runway for them. Being assertive does not exempt them from being smart.
The truth is, it is not just the Millennials that we are struggling to truly attract, engage and deploy. It is about everyone, or 87% of the current workforce, to be precise. Millennials are simply honest enough to point out what has never worked anyway. Thus, what would happen if we take their messages seriously?
What if Millennials weren’t a problem,
but a solution?
Let us practically explore how Millennial perspective can help us shift our practices in two examples: around talent attraction and the creation of a culture of innovation.
The attraction of talent
Most companies confess that they struggle to attract the right people to join their ranks. Talent attraction teams sweat over widening their approaches to reach out to as many people as possible, and as early in their careers or even education, as possible.
The answer, however, is not to widen the spectrum in which we go looking for talent, but to address authentically what engages people to work. The Millennials’ answer to this question is very clear: they are more interested in what they can give, rather than what they can get. It is not about flexible hours, healthcare packages, exciting careers, learning and travel opportunities, or other great perks that made that organisation a “great place to work”. It is about the value that we can add and the knowledge that our work is contributing to something that is worthwhile.
It is about the footprint, not the foothold.
Of course, humans have a need for recognition, but this should not be a cosmetic one. Salaries and perks for Millennials, and indeed most of us, are taken as a given, not as a driver.
The culture of innovation
We all want cultures where creative solutions are continuously improving what we do for clients and how we do it. Most organisations talk a lot about innovation and incentivise people to come up with new ideas, under the assumption that otherwise they will just not do it. The underlying belief is that people would rather continue to do what they have always done unless we “motivate” them to do otherwise.
Millennials turn this assumption upside down with their appetite and curiosity for the new and for the better, that is “innate” or “natural” to them. The truth is that we all have an “innate” desire to continuously improve the way we work, but the current workplace context often erodes any chances of innovation. The workplaces where alongside with the messages encouraging innovation, there are policies, performance management, reward systems and supervisory styles that hinder any attempts for coming up with new and challenging ideas. Thus, the answer lies in truly embracing innovation, by creating practices, spaces and flexibility needed to support it.
Everyone needs to have a strong sense of purpose for coming to work instead of just focusing on the end of year bonus. But to create that sense of purpose we need to make sure this is not just a PR exercise, but that it becomes the foundation for what the organisation does. Everyone needs to use their skills to do interesting work, to have space where to make decisions, to be able to administer how and where they work and to be trusted to make the right choices.
Let’s acknowledge it, we are not that different from Millennials. We have grown up in different circumstances and got used to the policies and structures than once worked well and served a purpose. Let us turn the page now or, even better, let us start a new chapter. Let us design organisations so that we do not waste so much time worrying about our belly buttons and can finally focus on what Millennials really brag about: creating value for society.