7 steps to engaging Millennials that will boost corporate performance

Millennials are a different breed and need to be treated differently.  Primarily what attracts them is a mix of creative genius and a constant challenge to excel in their fields—underlining their quest for “a life less ordinary.” They want to work for a meaningful purpose and need to be offered a stimulating, empathetic company where accommodating them results in a flexible and tolerant work environment.

The term “Millennials” refers to the generation of people born between the early 1980s and the early 2000s.  Sometimes referred to as Generation Y, they are the fastest growing generation in the global workforce today. A PwC research report “Millennials at Work—Reshaping the Workplace” reveals that by 2020, 50% of the global workforce will be made up of Millennials.  By the same token, a study released by Catalyst points out that by 2020, 50% of South Africa’s population will be younger than 25 years old.

They have fundamentally different work methods, and aspirations and are essentially “wired differently”. My 27-year-old nephew still lives at home, preferring to work on social projects than be part of the corporate world, a friend’s son quit his high paid job to volunteer at a Meditation Centre, interns and graduates are more concerned about choosing the right environment than you choosing to hire them. The employee value proposition was never more important than to this generation.

Managing Millennials is best regarded as an “investment in the company” according to Leigh Buchanon in “Meet the Millennials” which says: “One of the characteristics of Millennials, besides the fact that they are masters of digital communication, is that they are primed to do well by doing good.  Almost 70% say that giving back and being civically engaged are their highest priorities.”

Certainly, being heavy-handed or authoritarian will not work—this generation tends to be rebellious.  Not in a destructive way, they would simply rather leave a company than be “bullied” into doing something they do not see as important. They want to be listened to and guided by people they can look up to and respect.

Globally, more and more organisations are recognising the benefits of a coaching and mentoring culture. Older generations are encouraged as mentors rather than teachers—there is a very subtle difference between “telling” and “suggesting.”  Therefore, managing Millennials should be viewed as engaging, Millennials do not want to be told.

The following 7 steps are high recommended for any organisation who want to successfully engage Millennials.

Explain the company and its vision

Helping Millennials understand their role in the larger plan helps give them a sense of purpose and boosts productivity. 

Develop incremental steps and titles

Today’s employees—especially Millennials—crave recognition that goes way beyond monetary compensation to celebrate good work.  This can be accomplished in many small ways.  The creation of incremental steps and titles will also enable promotions to come more often and proactively as recognition for good work and creates measurable step-by-step recognition.

High involvement leadership, communication and empathy

This generation responds well to encouragement and immediate feedback.  Being transparent and open in communication breaks down the rigidities of the company hierarchy

Flexibility and new-age work practices.

This tech-savvy generation is essentially able to work anywhere, anytime, with an Internet connection.  Flexible office hours, flexible scheduling, team extramural activities and occasional telecommuting—provided performance remains consistent—can show trust, company flexibility and a sense of being appreciated. 

Cross-generational and cross-disciplinary teamwork

Accommodating the feeling of “being part of a larger team”—so loved by Millennials— will offer them the responsibility of collective action while allowing them the freedom to make their own contribution to the team, in their own way. 

Providing Education, Training and Professional Development

Millennials value good opportunities for growth and development as one of their top professional priorities. 

Assigning personal projects

If Millennials are allowed to work on projects of their own choice on a regular basis they will feel more engaged and in control.  They enjoy being creative, taking the initiative and producing something on their own.

To meet their future needs, organisations will need to employ and engage with employees who come with specialised work skills.  This is especially true of technology.  The Millennials will be the ones who take the organisation into the future— how we accommodate and manage their idiosyncrasies today, will have a definite influence on how well our organisations take shape in the future.


About the author

Susi Astengo has worked in senior management, leadership coaching and as an HR consultant for over 20 years.   She recently won  entrepreneur of the year in the prestigious2016 Businesswomen’s Association Regional Business Achiever Awards (RBAA), sponsored by Sanlam and Glacier by Sanlam. Astengo has a full range of experience working with blue chip Fortune 500 companies to independent start-ups. She combines a scientific approach with intuition and experience in the areas of behavioural assessment, leadership and organisation design. In 2008 she established CoachMatching which is now a national high performance coaching, learning & development company with a pool of 45 coaches.


With over 20 years of International HR consulting experience, Susi Astengo, MD of CoachMatching, is well placed to discuss human capital strategies with a deep understanding from both a business and an HR perspective. 

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