When it comes to their workforce behavior, millennials have been both praised and mocked for being the generation of Purpose. It’s as if no other generation before them ever cared to find meaning in how they earned a living.


Speaking as a millennial, the problem isn’t that we operate with an obsessive sense of purpose, but rather that we’re unable to compartmentalize very well. The old notion of just making a living—putting up with a career as an unsavory means to a necessary end—doesn’t sustain us the way it may have sustained older generations. Add to that the fact that many of us have witnessed family members suffer the fallout of The Great Recession, when a host of companies proved that decades of loyalty as a worker doesn’t protect your from losing your job, and you can see why millennials would be hesitant to completely buy into their workplace culture. And these are just a few of the reasons millennial workplace engagement is suffering.

Rather than criticizing or rationalizing millennial workplace engagement, why not proactively attempt to boost engagement metrics on millennials’ terms? You might be surprised to learn that, despite being “digital natives,” millennials still appreciate old-fashioned means of acknowledging employee concerns and aspirations. The key, on management’s end, is follow-through. Prove you care.

Is Millennial Engagement That Big a Problem?


Let’s start with a comparison chart. Below you’ll see how drastic the millennial engagement problem is compared to other generations:


Source: How Millennials Want To Work And Live, Gallup


According to Gallup’s recent study, How Millennials Want To Work and Live, only 29 percent of millennials are engaged in their work. Over half of millennials are not engaged, while 16 percent are actively disengaged–“more or less out to do damage to their company.”


To have 71 percent of millennials, the largest generation in the current workforce, not engaged sets the stage for long-term economic problems. Gallup’s study also found that 21 percent of millennials “report changing jobs within the last year, which is more than three times the number of non-millennials who report the same,” a trend that Gallup estimates at a $30.5 billion annual cost to the U.S. economy.


The study also found that:

  • 60 percent of millennials are open to a job change (15 percent higher than non-millennials),

  • 36 percent of millennials will look for a new job in the next year (14 percent higher than non-millennials),

  • less than 40 percent are “thriving in any one aspect of well-being.”


The last bullet potentially suggests a feedback loop arising from millennial’s lack of engagement. If millennials are already mostly indifferent about their jobs, a lack of financial, even mental well-being is likely to exacerbate the existing engagement problem.


An Old School Way To Boost Millennial Engagement


As the Age of Big Data continues to unfold, the steps we need to take are equal parts old school and new school. Scott Judd, global head of People Analytics at Facebook, suggests that employee surveys are still a very effective tool to determine employee engagement levels. Judd insists that, despite all of the recent developments in machine learning algorithms centered around employee behavior, surveys still are


  1. A great predictor of behavior

  • Asking employees how long they intend to stay with the company is more than twice as accurate as an industry leader in predictive analytics.

  • Even employees refusing to participate in the survey still offered valuable intel: They were 2.6 times more likely to leave in six months compared to the employees that did participate. 

  1. A chance for employees to feel heard

  • Not having a regular survey says to your employees that you don’t care what they think and how they feel.

  • Participation rates per type of survey suggest what employees value most; for example, at Facebook, 95 percent completed the engagement survey, ⅔ filled out the diversity survey, and more than half filled out the benefits survey.

  • 61 percent of Facebook employees added their own feedback in optional open-form questions. 

  1. A vehicle for changing behavior

  • Merely asking employees questions can influence their behavior. For example, when the American Cancer Society surveys people about helping out, volunteering rates jump from 4 percent to 31 percent.

  • Translate that concept to engagement surveys: Facebook asked 30 percent of their employees if they were personally committed to improving their work experience, and that small pool proved to be 12 percent more likely to request resources and tools to become more engaged.


The idea here isn’t necessarily just that old tactics are still relevant. Millennials appreciate being heard. A way to reinforce how the company genuinely appreciates this feedback is, in tandem with surveys, to offer one-on-one sessions where employees get to voice their concerns to a superior.


It’s one thing to promote an Open Door policy to your employees. It’s another to make it real. In a digital world, giving your millennial employees a concrete sense of their path within the company can go a long way. If they see a tangible investment in their progress, they’re going to be much less likely to jump ship.

Today’s Workforce


At tekMountain, one of the nation’s emerging innovation and entrepreneurial centers, we know just how vital the millennial workforce is to companies of all sizes—from startups to Fortune 500s. The current median age of millennials is 27, so the talk of “tomorrow’s workforce” is long gone. As the average age of a workplace manager is 30, it’s rather apparent that millennials have firmly entered a formidable segment of the workforce. Underestimating them could prove dire for your company and the economy at-large.

This blog was produced by the tekMountain Team of Sean AhlumAmanda Sipes, Kelly Brown and Bill DiNome with lead writer Zach Cioffi.


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