Top 10 Tips To Engage Millennials At Work

- How To Avoid Making Mistakes When Managing Millennials At Work -

Unhappy and disengaged millennial
Unhappy and disengaged millennial

For most managers, millennials seem almost impossible to understand; and even harder to lead or manage. Given that these “bright young things” now occupy 40% of the workforce, it’s best that we make the effort to understand them, and ideally get the best out of them.

The good news is that it really doesn’t take much to avoid the biggest mistakes managers make when managing millennials.

In this article I’ll share with you the 10 simple tips that will allow you to engage millennials at work, and reap the benefit of their incredible talents.

But before I do, I’d like to help you understand why millennials think and behave the way they do, and in particular how they view the world of work as we know it. In my experience millennials tend to be highly engaged in almost every aspect of their lives – except work.

Understanding Millennials

During the research sessions I conduct within businesses , I often hear the views of senior managers when describing the millennial generation. Those managers typically characterise them as

  • having a short attention span;
  • wanting instant gratification;
  • having a sense of entitlement;
  • being technologically savvy;
  • always looking at their phone;
  • lacking interpersonal skills;
  • being idealists;
  • liking instant information;
  • lacking focus;
  • questioning everything;
  • sulking if they don’t get their own way;
  • knowing everything. You can’t tell them anything
  • thinking that life is all about them…

But wait, there’s more. When I ask millennials to describe themselves I learn that they’re also (by their own definition)…

  • more likely to embrace and accept change;
  • information hungry;
  • accepting of cultural differences;
  • good at multi-tasking;
  • good problem solvers;
  • not constrained by traditional thinking;
  • bold and open-minded;
  • knowledgable in how to use tools to get information, answers and work done quickly.

The amusing thing is that it’s no wonder that millennials think and behave the way that they do. Many have been raised by helicopter parents. They have had people fussing over them, talking to them, answering their every question, responding to their every need, listening to them, correcting them, and giving them feedback every step of the way. They have been rewarded for wanting to know the answers, rather than being pushed aside.

Helicopter parents
Helicopter parents

So, when these young people arrive at the workplace we created, it should be no surprise to us that they want the ability to have conversations, present their views and ideas, challenge the status quo, and get feedback.

They can’t stand not knowing stuff, or feeling that their voice doesn’t matter. They are not being rude. They just want to know what’s going on, and feel included and involved.

What Millennials Experience

But what they want, and what they experience are a world apart. What they (and everybody else in the company) are more likely to face at work is an environment where…

  • no one tells them what the company does;
  • the boss doesn’t speak to them when he or she walks past – often multiple times a day;
  • they are actively discouraged from speaking to some people;
  • they don’t understand how they are meant to contribute to the enterprise; and
  • they are given meaningless roles.

Is it any wonder that they lose interest, and become professionally dis-engaged quickly? Of course not. But it is possible to engage millennials at work by making a few changes. Here are 10 things you can do to avoid the biggest mistakes managers make when managing millennials.

Unhappy and disengaged millennial
Unhappy and disengaged millennial

10 Tips To Engage The Millennials At Work

  1. Tell them what the company is about;
  2. Make sure they know how their role fits into the objectives of the company and what is expected of them;
  3. Ensure their work is meaningful and relevant and utilises their skills and training;
  4. Keep them up to date with how the organisation is performing;
  5. Provide them with frequent, timely and helpful feedback. Make sure that any negative feedback is immediate, current, specific, relevant, fair and constructive;
  6. Communicate reasons for change when there is change;
  7. Involve them in the conversation and encourage them to help identify what needs done;
  8. They want their opinion to matter. Listen to them;
  9. Make sure they have the tools to do their job. This is the generation that grew up with the latest smartphone and tablet.
  10. Help them to understand what the future looks like for the organisation, and for them. They want to know what their opportunities for progression are, and that they can progress at least as fast as their peers.


With these 10 tips you’ll be able to avoid the biggest mistakes managers make when managing millennials.

But let’s speak to the elephant in the room. Millennials aren’t asking for any more than what everybody on your team wants. They’re just less tolerant when they don’t get it, and feel they have the permission to say so.

If you truly want to engage your people (regardless of generation) remember what I call the 4C’s of leadership – clarity, communication, consistency, and care.

Which of the 10 tips could you most improve upon as a manager and leader?

This article and video is based on an excerpt from the book The Best Leaders Don’t Shout By Bruce Cotterill. 


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