The keys to millennial engagement at the workplace
The Asia-Pacific region has gone through profound economic and social transformation over the past 50 years, and now enjoys sustained success on the global stage. The world of work has evolved just as fast as each generation brought its own attitudes and ideas to the workplace.
This was most recently apparent when millennials entered the workforce en-masse from around 2010. There was an initial perception that they didn’t seem to care about work to the same degree as Baby Boomers or Generation X. This view faded as we came to understand more about how millennials feel and what motivates them. And this is important, as next year they will account for 50% of the global workforce.
We now know that millennials want a flexible approach to work, with regular feedback and quick progression. They also want to feel their work has purpose, that their efforts are valued, and that the job itself is inherently interesting. But perhaps the biggest generational shift has been that millennials prioritise their own needs over those of their organisation.
In parallel to these generational shifts was the smartphone revolution. The app economy fundamentally changed how people live, work, and play. Whole industries were disrupted as people were connected in a way never seen before. These days everyone from the CEO down to the remote worker can be easily communicated with, a move which is radically flattening the hierarchies of old and democratising the workplace.
For example, we helped Bao Viet Group, the largest financial insurer in Vietnam, launch a weekly internal live video show broadcast via desktop and mobile to all of its employees. This initiative helped close the divide between management and frontline employees and, alongside other initiatives such as automating administration tasks, has resulted in a marked rise in employee sentiment.
But for many organisations, there is still work to be done to cater for millennial workers. Here are four approaches we’ve taken that you might find useful to apply in your company:
Make flexibility a priority
Breaking free from making everyone clock-in nine-to-six opens up so many possibilities for a more diverse and inclusive workplace, and these days we no longer need to be in an office to get things done. Whether it’s working parents who need to spend more time at home, or tapping into when employees are at their most productive, companies are reaping the benefits of moving away from demanding everyone works in the same way. Indeed, we found that 72% of millennials think it’s important that their company offers flexible working arrangements.
Showcase what you stand for
Millennials want to feel connected to the companies they work for and also those they buy from. And that means they need to share the same values. It’s also interesting that many consider their workplace a community where people come together to accomplish shared goals. So companies must demonstrate what they stand for, and if possible how they are working to positively impact society.
Keep communication open
Transparency is crucial. Digital natives openly share much of their personal lives,and expect their colleagues and leadership to be truthful and up-front. 87% of the millennials we surveyed say they encourage knowledge and information sharing at work, so whether that’s regular updates, town halls, or weekly check-ins, keep as many in the loop as possible, and allow them to voice their opinions.
We helped RHB Bank do just this by doing away with its previous one-way communication portal. Now employees can communicate and share updates with their regional peers in real time. Our support has led to a 40% increase in employees confirming they feel part of a shared culture.
Leverage next-generation technology
As I’m sure you’re aware, millennials are bringing personal technology into the workplace and readily use platforms at work in ways that resemble their use of social media. This generation wants to be able to engage and interact with content in a way that feels familiar to them: through words, yes, but also through gifs, emojis, and video. While a few years ago, it may have been optional to offer platforms like these, today it is vital for both recruitment and retention.
We found that millennials are 1.4 times more likely to say that it’s important for them to work for a company that uses the latest tools and technologies. HR teams need to work with leadership and IT to make this possible.
Millennials are leaders of change across work and life, and businesses are responding. By focusing on building community, it is possible to empower everyone to work better, smarter, and faster together. Through technology it is possible to humanise your business and help you keep your finger on the pulse of what really matters. There is one thing to look out for though. Just as companies have got a handle on millennial aspirations, it is now worth looking at what drives those of Generation Z who will be coming into the workforce over the next five years.
But by focusing on culture, staying true to purpose and listening to younger workers, companies will be ready for whatever comes next.
About the author
Luke McNeal is the Head of Workplace by Facebook in Asia-Pacific (including Japan).