The Fastest-Growing Generation in Today’s Workplace

Oh, those millennials!” For those of you who are parents of millennials (generation Y), a teacher who has taught them, a manager who has managed or supervised them as employees or, generally, anyone who has spent any amount of time with them, you may have uttered these words. Maybe you have not even used that exact phrase, but you have said things like, “Why is his voicemail box always full?” or “Why won’t they answer my call?” Maybe you have found yourself thinking “Why won’t she simply read her emails?” 

Millennials love texting. They are the generation that stays on Snapchat, Instagram and a variety of social media platforms that make their thumbs spastically move throughout every day. They prefer texting over talking and feel that email is outdated. In fact, it is even interesting to note the decline of Facebook millennials, especially those in their twenties. That is probably because they know, as baby boomers and gen xers, their parents are on Facebook, too. 

Before you get too frustrated with some of their antics, the millennial generation has many positive attributes and characteristics that not only make our everyday lives better, but bring exciting contributions to the workplace. 

Millennials are the fastest-growing generation in the workplace today. In order for a business to be successful today, and especially in the years ahead, it is imperative to understand the likes, dislikes and most prominent traits of millennials in the workplace.

If you are reading this article, you may currently employ or will hire millennials. Almost 80 million people in the U.S. are millennials who bring new skills, enthusiasm and a unique approach as they work alongside mostly baby boomers and generation X co-workers. These generational differences can be viewed through the lens of either an uphill battle or an exciting opportunity — depending entirely on how managers, supervisors and leaders view generation Y staff members. Let’s look at millennial employee engagement and dynamic ways to increase employee performance. 

Over the last 18 years, as a consultant and motivational speaker, I have shared with organizations across the U.S. the importance of learning to work with and lead a multi-generational workforce. More importantly, I have had lots of experience engaging with millennials, as I am the proud father of two millennial sons. Deep inside, I have always believed they are the greatest generation because of their connectedness with their friends through texting, tweeting, Snapchat, Instagram, playing video games together, etc. 

As a member of generation X, I was not near as connected with my friends in high school in the 1980s. We did not have cellphones, so if you wanted to call a friend, you usually took the chance of reaching them at their home number, unless they had a private line in their bedroom. If it was later than 9 p.m. when you called, you hoped and prayed their mom or dad would not answer the phone. Otherwise, you routinely would hear, “Lori is in bed! It is too late to be calling anyway!” For my sixteenth birthday, I was blessed by my parents with my own bedroom phone. It was truly one of the greatest gifts I had ever received — freedom to talk when I wanted and for however long I wanted!

On weekends, in the small West Texas town I grew up in, we would “drag Main,” which was basically driving down Main Street and honking and waving at other friends as they drove by. The only opportunity to really connect or visit was to meet at the carwash parking lot, roll down the windows and hope you could hear what they were saying over the loud music both cars were playing. Maybe a plan was even made to meet at Sonic® for a Coca-Cola®. Contrast that to my sons as millennials. For the majority of nights since my sons were in high school and up to present day, they have always had several friends over at a time to hang out, play Xbox, watch movies and visit with each other while ferociously typing on their phones, surfing through the wide world of social media. This connectedness to each other is a value I think other generations should strive to emulate, even if that takes different forms.

To find the “Best Places to Work for Millennials,” the Center for Generational Kinetics partnered with the workplace excellence research firm Best Companies Group (BCG), which manages more than 50 “Best Places to Work” programs around the globe. BCG analyzed data from the more than 4,000 U.S. organizations that participated in its various programs. BCG included policy and benefit offerings from employer questionnaires, as well as employee engagement data from the more than 500,000 employee surveys conducted in the last 12 months. They took a hard look at what truly drives millennial employee engagement within a multi-generational workforce. The Center also identified factors that separated top-performing companies from those that did not make the cut. Traditional engagement studies often focus solely on the Fortune 500 or Fortune 1000 lists. However, what they uncovered through their research is that small and medium-sized companies in a variety of industries can be outstanding employers for millennials and places where millennials love to work.

Not every company can be Starbucks™, Apple or Facebook. A hospital, car dealership or retail store can be one of the highest-ranking places for employment from a millennial’s viewpoint. Every generation brings something unique and worthwhile to the workplace and to the culture. Businesses and organizations that embrace these generational differences grow faster and stronger. 

What are the top five drivers of millennial employee engagement?

Engagement survey results from more than 3,000 companies, representing more than 200,000 employees, were analyzed to determine the five drivers of millennial-employee engagement. These five drivers were the most important reasons for millennials that demonstrated they were engaged and performing well at their workplace. When you consider these drivers in your own workplace, consider them through the viewpoint of a millennial, aged 18 to 37. The millennial workforce ranges from young people right out of high school, college students or graduates to people who are gaining self-reliance and truly becoming an “adult.” This is important context, as an individual’s place within this broad life stage, whether they are living with three roommates or married with a child, affects the importance of each driver of engagement.

The top five drivers of millennial employee engagement: 

1. I feel my organization values me. 

2. I have confidence in the leadership of this organization. 

3. I like the type of work I do in my job.

4. Most days, I feel I have accomplished things at work. 

5. This organization treats me like a person, not just another number.

The top five drivers are listed in order of greatest contribution. The statement “I feel my organization values me” is by far the top employee engagement driver. As you think about what these drivers could mean in your business or organization, consider how strongly your millennial employees would respond to the above statements. Would they strongly agree, somewhat agree or disagree?

What are the four strongest statements millennials make that reflect the best places to work?

• I have a solid understanding of how this organization is performing financially. 

• Staffing is adequate to provide quality products and services. 

• There are opportunities for advancement at this company or organization. 

• Changes that may affect me are communicated to me prior to implementation. 

How would millennial employees respond to each of the previous four statements at your place of work? 

What reflects millennial employees’ self-image within the organization?

This self-reflection of future opportunities, employee value, reward, recognition and compensation separates the best employers from everyone else. 

There are four statements where employee rankings showed some of the biggest gaps between successful companies and those companies that did not win the award. These statements really separated those companies that made the Best Places to Work For list and those that did not: I feel I am valued in this organization. I feel I can express my honest opinions without fear of negative consequences. I trust that if I do good work, I will be considered for a promotion. My pay is fair for the work I perform. How would you rate your answer to each of these four statements when it comes to your relationship with your company?

What attracts millennials to a job? 

When recruiting millennials, the goal is to attract not only more applicants, but better ones. Research around attracting millennials shows two major trends: First, employment branding is vital. Successful organizations brand both their company and specific positions to attract millennials as prospective employees. The most critical components include the career page on your website, your job description and how easy it is to apply. Additional key influencers are social media outlets like and other online employment ratings. The second trend is the incredible importance of bringing your organization’s purpose and mission to life. More than any other generation, millennials want to know and believe in your mission and purpose, which should include valuing your employees and their personal and professional growth. Research supports these trends, showing 60 percent of millennials said a sense of purpose is part of the reason they chose to work for their current employer. 43 percent of millennials think they should be able to apply for a job on an iPad or tablet. 39 percent expect to be able to apply for a job on a smartphone. It is astounding to note that 47 percent more millennials than non-millennials found their current positions through an online job search.

How long do millennials stay at a job?

There is much discussion about how long millennials will stay with an organization. Some employers might even ask the question “is it worth the effort to hire them?” Most definitely! Millennials are sampling not only companies, but also careers. Millennials are at the perfect stage of life to figure out their likes and dislikes and what they truly love to do. This is a real opportunity for an organization to step forward and demonstrate they are the right fit for a millennial employee to lay the foundation for long-term career growth and development. College-age students are likely to have several more jobs over a shorter period of time, as these are often part-time jobs that are not viewed as a career pathway by the millennial and, many times, even the employer. For example, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, young adults born in the early 1980s, who are among the older millennials, held an average of 6.2 jobs from age 18 through age 26. More than two-thirds of these jobs were held from ages 18 to 22. However, for those millennials who graduate from college, and as all millennials get older and take on more traditional responsibilities and obligations, the expectations for work tenure begins to change, too. A study of about 4,300 college-educated millennials found that 54 percent expect to work for between two and five employers over their entire careers. Working for two and five employers over a 40 to 50-year career suggests much greater longevity with an employer than the initial phase of a millennials’ employment. I have definitely witnessed that trend in my own family, as both of my sons, in their twenties, and my many nieces and nephews in their twenties and early thirties, have been at their current jobs for several years.

Most millennials are very relationship driven. In spite of complaints we may make about the extensive use of social media, generation Y has stayed connected with one another more than any other generation. My sons still have numerous close friends from high school. Social media has certainly played a great role in their lives. My sons not only stay connected through their phones, computers and iPads, but more importantly, always re-connect when college friends are home, connect through social and business mixers, etc. When I look back to my own high school days, I have only seen a handful of friends since graduation. While I am connected to hundreds of friends and clients through social media, they are not the kind of strong bonds that motivate people to connect in person more often. If gen-xers and baby boomers had experienced that kind of connection platform, perhaps their relationships would have been different, as well. The commitment to relationships and the strong desire for stability have formed millennials to have a desire for longevity in the workplace. 

How do you know if your business is doing well when it comes to retaining millennial employees? 

It is important to approach your retention data in two ways. First, compare it to your industry peer group to understand the current norms. Millennial turnover can range from 15 percent to 150 percent, depending on the industry, position, economy and other factors. Comparing your company to your industry group will give you a good sense of what similar companies are experiencing. Secondly, look at your employment history to determine the six-month period where you see the largest increase in turnover with millennials. By examining your records, you may find this could be simply seasonal or at a specific employee tenure mark, such as 18 months or two years. Identify what you could do beginning four months before that usual turnover point to re-engage millennials so they extend their employment another six months to one year. This simple exercise is one of the highest return-on-investment activities you can implement for millennials and your business. 

What motivates millennials
at work?

It takes more than gift cards and trophies to motivate millennials. This is the generation that grew up with participation trophies for almost every sports team or activity they participated in. They even played on little league teams that did not keep score. “Oh, those millennials,” a baby boomer might say.

Millennials are motivated by:

      • a sense of belonging 

      • interesting or challenging work that pushes them to grow 

      • a boss and co-workers they like (connectedness)

      • a mission or purpose they believe in or want to support 

      • compensation and benefits 

You can see the overlap between what research reveals and the five key drivers of employee engagement.

Tapping talent in the
millennial workforce

It is very important that managers and supervisors provide concrete, visual examples of the performance you expect. An easy example is a dress code such as business casual. The definition of what business casual actually is can vary significantly by generation. Rather than leaving it open to interpretation, and risking confusion or frustration, provide a photo or video of how you expect people to dress. This one action reduces miscommunication, saves you dozens of hours having to “counsel” people who are dressed inappropriately. It enables you to hold the employee accountable for complying. Without specific visual examples, a millennial might show up wearing khaki pants and flip flops if you told them business casual. That would be the ultimate business meets casual!

Create a safe space for millennials to learn from and interact with leaders of different ages, experiences and titles. We have seen the impact of this in companies where top performing “emerging talent” employees are invited to be a part of quarterly or annual meeting alongside senior leadership. Getting an invitation to these events is more important and valued by millennials than a raise or promotion. We have also seen this initiative come to life in informal lunches with leadership, which could be in small groups or one-on-one for top performers. The key is to open the dialogue for millennials to learn from senior leaders, for senior staff members to meet with millennials and for executives to better view their talent pipeline. This is a true win for the millennial, executive and company.

Give millennials a chance to prove themselves through stretch projects. A stretch project is a specific challenge that a millennial requests or is assigned, leading to a specific outcome. A stretch goal should challenge a millennial’s skillset and offer an opportunity for them to demonstrate their potential. The project might be an analysis of non-traditional competitors, the creation of a new product or service or an overview presentation on a new technology that has major potential impact on your business.

Make the first day unforgettable by doing something unexpected and memorable. This shows millennials you are truly excited they joined your team. Barnum Financial Group welcomes new employees by putting them on a pedestal, literally. On their first day, new employees have their picture taken standing on a stage with a backdrop featuring the company logo — similar to walking the red carpet at the Academy Awards. The photo is taken with the new hire’s phone so they can post it to their social networks and all their friends can see the celebrity welcome they received at their new job! Show millennials you have a vision for their talent development. Millennials believe they have talent and want you to help them unlock it. You do this by showing them your talent development plan or letting them create their own. 

Hopefully, you have found encouragement that you are working with a great generation of young people who bring great opportunities to businesses today. Instead of focusing on shortcomings and perceived weaknesses, look through a different lens and see how easy it is to connect with generation Y. Those organizations who commit to reaching out to millennials, connecting with them and offering career growth and opportunities will thrive in the days ahead. “Oh, those millennials,” indeed!

KYLIE MOORE works in the title industry at Chicago Title. She is a marketing and sales rep, so she brings in new business, sustains current business and provides value to customers through educational events, networking opportunities and marketing assistance.

Q. Is there something that motivates you to do what you do?

A. My family! I am married with four step-children (not your typical millennial in 2018) and I want to help my husband provide well for my family. Whenever I am less motivated, I think of my family and it perks me right up!

Q. What makes you feel accomplished in your work?

A. Our business is entirely relationship driven. When a client is truly happy with our services and feels personally connected with me and our team, I cannot ask for more than that!

Q. Is there something you wish other generations understood about millennials?

A. Ambitious millennials are looking for mentors or coaches either directly or indirectly related to their career goals. Having someone to brainstorm with and learn about a career from is so important to feeling proactive and inspiring growth. If you see a millennial with talent or ambition, ask them if they have someone they can turn to for advice.

JARRED GRIFFIN is in the mortgage industry and works for Landmark Bank as a Real Estate Lender. He helps customers obtain their dream homes by setting them up in the best long-term financial position. 

Q. Is there something that motivates you to do what you do? 

A. The two driving factors are providing for my family and knowing I am helping customers be in the best financial situation, not just purchasing a home.

Q. What is something unique you feel you bring to your workplace?  

A. I can bring out the best in others, I work well with a team and I raise morale. The best workplace is a fun workplace that still meets their goals.

Q. Is there something you wish other generations understood about millennials? 

A. I feel like there is a misconception for each generation. I believe it is imperative for each generation to take time to understand others, before making their opinions or judgments. As for millennials, the biggest misconception is that we are entitled and/or lazy. Although there are plenty of bad apples that can identify with this (as there are in every generation), most of us are trying to work smarter. Intelligence and a strong grasp of technology takes people a long way now.

JENNA BENABE is the Community Outreach Liaison for the Frisco ISD. She brings the community and school district together to benefit the students and staff. 

Q. Is there something that motivates you to do what you do?

A. I really enjoy helping others! I love seeing the results from my work and knowing I made a difference in someone else’s life … especially in the life of a child. It is a rewarding feeling to see the smile on someone else’s face.

Q. Is there something you value in your current role? 

A. There are many things, but one thing in particular is integrity. I believe integrity shows your true character. It can truly reveal so much about a person without saying a word. I think this is something everyone should desire, especially in the workplace. 

Q. Is there something you wish other generations understood about millennials?

A. Stereotypically, we get a bad rap, but I believe millennials really do care about their own professional success and working for the betterment of society as a whole. Many of my friends are successful teachers, engineers and medical professionals. I am constantly impressed by my generation’s focus and drive that is shaping the future of our country.

KAITLIN LOVERN is a REALTOR® for Fine Homes and Estates Nathan Grace. She helps people across the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex buy, sell, rent or build homes.

Q. Is there something that motivates you to do what you do?

A. The heart and soul of my business comes down to being able to play an integral role in the milestone moment of each client’s home buying or selling experience. I do not take these transitions lightly, and truly treat each transaction as if it were my own. My goal is to always protect my clients’ best interests.

Q. What are some of your goals for the future?

A. I would like to be ranked in the top 10 percent of all realtors in the area by 2020.

Q. Is there something you value in your current role? 

A. I value relationships and truly view every client as a friend. The golden rule has always been important to me in my life and business, so I always treat each client with compassion and kindness — the way I would want to be treated during this huge milestone in life. 

Q. What makes you feel accomplished in your work?

A. Delivering my clients what they need and deserve is an amazing accomplishment for me. Clients are my priority, so when they are happy, it means I did my job right. Bringing value to my clients is the best thing about my job.

MELANIE NANCE is a residential REALTOR® for Team Nance Homes with YoursVille Real Estate alongside her brother and business partner. She works for an independent brokerage that focuses on providing the highest level of service, loyalty and accountability to clients buying or selling a home.

Q. Is there something that motivates you to do what you do? 

A. As a realtor, I get to be a part of one of the largest, most important transactions of a person or family’s life. My passion is to take the stress off you and help you enjoy more of the exciting part of that process. As for the rest, I just enjoy helping others and making people smile!  

Q. Is there something you value in your current role? 

A. Helping people! Making new lifelong friends! I get to meet so many new people and get to know them on a whole new level. It is a truly rewarding position to hold.

Q. Are there any skills you believe you or other millennials bring to the workplace?

A. Millennials are changing the way we do business today. We are always on the go, so you must be able to adapt to the way your clients communicate or do business. With the constant growth in Frisco, we should all strive to keep up with the changing technology and marketing strategies many millennials are helping to push forward!

CONNOR WEST is the general manager for Red Door Escape Room, as an extension of the corporate operations team.

Q. What are some of your goals for the future?

A. In the professional sense, I am aiming to run the most successful Escape Room in the area, but more than that, I want to be leader in customer service in the industry. I am striving to create a wholesome culture with a staff that produces an awesome atmosphere for guests. 

Q. Is there something you wish other generations understood about millennials?

A. I think everyone needs to understand that our generation wants to be loyal to the organization they are a part of. Millennials are accused all the time of being flaky, job-jumping or for just chasing money. While that may be true in some cases, I think I can speak for most of us when I say we just want to be taken seriously and respected. If we are given that, we are not going anywhere.

Q. Are there any skills you believe you or other millennials bring to the workplace?

A. We have big ideas and the motivation to achieve them. The fact is, we are fast learners and we do what it takes to be successful. We bring an exuberant energy that can fuel a department or company with fresh ideas and creative thought-leadership. Give us the chance, and we will prove you right for doing so!

Chris Thrash is President/CEO of Chris Thrash and Associates. Since 1999, he has helped hundreds of hospitals, organizations and businesses build successful service cultures where customers are raving fans, employees are engaged and everyone is committed to excellence.