Millennial employees learning together

Solving Your Engagement Problem: How to Create Harmony with Your Millennial Workforce

So you’re having a problem keeping millennial employees engaged and thriving at your company, right? It’s okay, many do.

In 2015, only 32% of employees were considered engaged at work. Low engagement is tightly correlated to increased turnover, and the cost of turnover is substantial. Gallup estimates that millennial turnover costs the US economy $30.5 billion annually. There’s got to be a way to turn this around.
As a millennial myself who can’t be satisfied with a singular hair color or a hobby for more than a few months, I agree there are many challenges to keeping us engaged. Despite being attached to our phones to the point of crippling neck problems in the future, we do crave meaningful relationships. In an age of social media, apps, and email, millennials want discussions of the greater purpose of work and the avenues for pursuing personal and professional growth.

Fifty-six percent of new hires say they want a buddy or mentor. And mentoring programs within organizations are proving increasingly effective and popular as tactics for improving employee engagement. A Moving Ahead study found 82 percent believe that mentoring relationships help foster meaningful connections between mentors and mentees, across departments and the organization.

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This is great news for organization leaders. Engaged employees are more collaborative, more innovative, and tolerate change and stress better than disengaged ones. By harnessing the power of mentoring, and building organizational culture around the idea, leaders can build powerful, agile companies that are better poised to succeed in today’s changing workplace environment. Just take a look at the Fortune 500 list – almost three quarters of them have formal mentoring programs.

When investing in your organization’s mentoring program, consider the following areas to ensure your program is primed for success, a success that can be recognized by both program participants and program sponsor.

Constant Distraction and Reprioritization  

Despite interest in mentoring, many employees still find it challenging to make time for a mentoring relationship. With deadlines to meet and shifting priorities to adjust to, it can be easy for employees to push off working on personal development or connecting with a mentor, especially with the trusty adage “I’ll do it tomorrow” at their disposal. To address this, organizations need to focus on providing support and space for employees to prioritize relationship building and knowledge sharing. This can be encouraging participants to go get coffee with their mentor, maybe Friday afternoons, or by managers following up on employees’ mentoring and personal development during their regular one-on-ones. It is everyone in the organization‘s job to keep mentoring and professional development top of mind and a top priority.

Culture is Key

Even with a stellar database of willing mentors, mentoring relationships are not guaranteed to flourish if no one prioritizes them. This is your opportunity to contribute to growing a stronger learning culture that permeates every aspect of your organization. When designing your program, execute a compelling communication plan around the value of mentoring, get leaders and influencers around the organization to promote participation, and provide participants with the support and resources to build and maintain mentoring relationships. This helps to build and strengthen organizational culture along with building support for your mentoring program.

Delivering Value is Not the Same as Demonstrating Value

Finally, even if you have a successful mentoring program, you need to be able to demonstrate its value in order to keep funding flowing and support strong. You must develop relationships with the leadership team, make sure that your program is aligned with organizational goals, and demonstrate overall business impact so that your program gets the support it needs to continue succeeding. Know what numbers and metrics your leadership is looking for when they say “tangible results”. Making guesses on these things from the beginning will not bode well for end of quarter or end of year reports.

Capitalizing on your people, your culture, and your program’s overall value is the holistic approach that will put you on the best road to success. Working on these facets in tandem will build an engaged, invested community of millennial employees that’s ready to tackle any organization’s next big hurdle, as well as their own.

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