Posted by: Professionals In Human Resources Association (PIHRA) | July 26, 2010

Engaging a Millennial Workforce

By Mike Byam

Study after study in recent years has outlined the challenges that lie ahead for organizations as the millennial employees become a larger part of the workforce.  Startling numbers highlighting increased turnover rates, lack of loyalty, the need for constant feedback and affirmation (just to name a few of this generations special needs) can be daunting for business leaders from companies of all shapes and sizes.

Successful companies will adapt their culture to incorporate the values of this generation instead of dismissing those ideals.  Frequently, millennial employees are found to want the following:

  • Meaningful work – Not necessarily work that “saves the planet” but a clear understanding how the work their performing, no matter how advanced or entry level, allows the business to accomplish its goals.
  • A personable organization – The most desired employers will make it clear to millennial employees that they know and understand them as people.
  • Visibility with leaders – The desire to connect with fellow employees at all levels of the organization, especially the company leadership, is an attitude that is displayed as early as the first day with a company.
  • Coaching vs. supervision – Managing this group requires more feedback and involvement then preceding generations.
  • Praise & recognition – Remember millennials are trophy kids, they’ve grown up in a world where recognition is frequent and plentiful.  This type of interaction is something they expect to continue during their professional careers.

Employers are not without tools to address these challenges though often times it is difficult to know where to start without totally upsetting the existing apple cart.  One trend that is surfacing is the demand for a modern day peer to peer nomination based recognition program.  Today’s peer to peer initiatives assist businesses in addressing the needs of younger employees as they tie contributions to organizational values highlighting the meaningful contributions people make every day that help the business succeed.  Successful peer recognition allows employees at all levels the opportunity to earn visibility on the job beginning day one while offering staff members the opportunity to identify the aspects of fellow workers personality that support the business values.

Peer nomination programs assist managers on a number of levels as they offer a vehicle for positive feedback and coaching within a structured system while not relying solely on the management group to be responsible for the recognition that takes place.  When implemented successfully a peer to peer recognition program fosters frequent recognition within any organization and therefore addresses that final need we mentioned earlier, the desire for frequent praise and recognition.

On more than one occasion as I travel around North America talking with business leaders about engaging their workforce, I’ve been asked in some way, shape, or form, “Why do we need to change for millennial employees we might not even have yet?”    My response is usually something along the lines of “because it is worth it” and it is.  The millennial workforce has a skill set that other generations do not possess.  They’ve grown up doing things many of us have had to work hard to try to comprehend.  Ultimately, if we don’t find ways to engage this group and our competition does they are going to be the one that is left standing in the end.

Peer to peer recognition can help insure you and your organization can come out on top during this generational change.

Mike Byam is the Managing Partner of the Terryberry Company and author of The WOW! Workplace.  The Terryberry Company is a leading provider of effective employee recognition and incentive programs for 25,000 organizations worldwide.  For more information, contact Terryberry at 800-253-0882 or


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