Throughout my career, I have been known to say, “I have faith in God. Everyone else bring data.” Like most seasoned professionals, I use analytics to test assumptions before making decisions. The practice worked well for me, until I started working with Millennials…and discovered an interesting generational gap that bubbles up when we interpret data [expectations] based on personal perspective; and that’s when I committed to understanding the Millennial perspective on employee satisfaction. In a recent blog post http://bit.ly/1ngaoEd, I discussed the benefits of involving today’s Millennials in workplace changes. While the piece is focused on outcomes, i.e., Millennial Leadership Development, and Cutting Edge Culture, the principle driver for these positive outcomes is Millennial engagement. Like every other generation, Millennials engage when they feel their contribution is valued. What makes them feel valued, however, is different from their predecessors, which is why I folded the data, put it in my back pocket, and engaged one-on-one to better understand the Millennial mindset.
Following my own advice, I engaged the source, and interviewed Millennials who, like the employee featured in the post, left some of the “Best Companies to Work For”, after only a couple of years. What follows is an excerpt from one such interview that I believe is pivotal to our understanding of how to retain our Millennials with employee engagement. I found the interview to be extremely enlightening. I think you will too….
Ahnimisha Consulting [Ahnimisha]: “Why did you leave Global 500?”
Millennial: “They didn’t value my skills.”
Ahnimisha: “Help me understand. They hired you. They gave you amazing benefits, and a secure income with annual increases. They chose you over other applicants, and your performance reviews are very positive. Why did you feel they didn’t value you?”
Millennial: “I don’t know how to explain it.”
Ahnimisha: “Let’s approach it from a different angle. Does New Company value you?”
Ahnimisha: “O.K. great, so what’s the tangible evidence of that? How do you know they value you?”
Millennial: “It’s how they hired me, how they utilize my skills, and how they value my contribution. They engaged with me on a personal level the first time I met them. I felt like a valued member of the New Company team from day one.”
….and there you have it. Employee Engagement, the most significant factor in workforce satisfaction offers us yet another opportunity for improvement; but there’s a new level of complexity. Like so many other gap-enhancing issues, before we can address it, we need to understand what’s expected.
Sparing you the conversational back and forth, here’s a summary of how this accomplished young professional put the Millennial generation’s view of employee engagement into perspective for me:
How they hired me…
“Global 500 basically hired me by my resume. They interviewed me, but they didn’t get to know me. I met the guidelines and they hired me.”
New Company interacted with me; not my resume. The interview allowed me to demonstrate my skills in their environment. I was already viewed as a valued member of the team the day they hired me.”
How they utilize my skills…
“At Global 500, there was a hierarchy that limited my input. I felt I had a lot of insights that I couldn’t contribute because I didn’t have tenure.”
“Collaboration is a way of doing business at New Company. They don’t just say it. They do it. It’s not unusual for senior executives to tweet insights and ideas to everyone and request feedback. New Company valued my input from day one.”
How they value my contribution…
“At Global 500 I felt I had to constantly pay my dues, i.e. prove my value, over and over again, at every level.”
“At New Company, I proved my value during the interview. My dues were paid in full before they hired me, and they expected me to contribute in every way possible on day one. New Company valued me before they hired me!”
With three years at Global 500 and two at New Company, the significant difference was Personal Connection. The interaction with an employee that lets them know they are valued for the specific skills they contribute; and it begins at the interview. The Millennial view is simple and logical, but almost completely opposite of how most of us viewed employee engagement when we started our careers. Our personal paycheck was all we needed to feel engaged and valued, and we checked the Respect box when we got the job offer.
That was us, and while it is interesting (and in some cases quite entertaining), in our efforts to retain the Millennials we are invested in, it is entirely irrelevant. What matters is how they view engagement. As a Baby Boomer who begat a couple of Millennials, I’m proud of them. Not just mine. I’m proud of this amazing generation, and with double-digit years left before I retire, I want to hear from them. They are the future, and if you’re like me, you intend to be a part of it. As today’s leaders, the ball is in our court: It’s time to change our mindset, understand our future leaders, and alter practices to engage and retain Millennials!