How to Engage Millennials From Day One

Millennials in the workplace often get a bad rep—particularly from older generations who are accustomed to working in a different style.

Have you ever heard someone stereotype millennials as impatient, disloyal or easily bored and distracted? Much of this is in stark contrast to how they see themselves and the opportunities they present to employers when they look in the mirror. Millennials see a generation who are tolerant, curious, connected and innovative

Common Perceptions

  • Impatient
  • Overly self-confident
  • Self-absorbed
  • Lazy
  • Easily bored
  • Spoiled
  • Disloyal

How They See Themselves

  • Tolerant
  • Curious
  • Connected
  • Flexible
  • Innovative
  • Conscientious
  • Individual

It’s the new skills, values and challenges that this generation brings to the table that have inspired us to rethink how we engage with our teams. Millennials outsize any previous generation, and by 2020 they will comprise around 50% of the workforce…by 2025 it’ll be more like 75%. 

Who Are Millennials? 


This young generation bring with them an intellect, a contemporary education, and a view of the world we’ve never seen before. So how can we embrace and learn from them? Before we dive into strategies for engaging a millennial workforce, let’s take a moment to firstly understand what is on the forefront of their minds: their ambitions, passions, values and concerns. 

3 Key Insights from the Deloitte 2019 Global Millennial Survey 

Results published by Deloitte in their millennial survey of 2019 interviewed more than 16,000 millennials around the world, including 500 Australians. The greatest concerns from our Australian millennials were about climate change, their careers, their lives and society. 

1. Millennials’ top ambitions are to travel the world and buy a house 

These are really good to know as an employer because they provide the motivation for the next ambition and that is to earn a high salary. By showing them that joining your team will assist in achieving these goals, could you imagine the impact this would have on attracting and retaining millennials? 

2. They aspire to make a positive impact on society 

68% of young Australians believe that making a positive impact in their society is achievable. Sharing your company values and initiatives during the recruiting and on-boarding process will demonstrate to these clued-in millennials how their work can influence the organisation’s ability to have a positive impact on society. By doing so, it will help them feel more empowered, involved, and included.

This combined gives them a sense of purpose and in effect a higher level of engagement. If you’d like to learn more about this, we have also written an article on the three sources of engagement.

3. Starting their own business has never been more achievable

The most interesting of all ambitions listed here is that 80% of Australian millennials think that starting their own business is achievable. If we look at the findings here more closely, we’ll see that only 34% actually have an ambition to do so. This reinforces the need to ensure they have a clear understanding of career opportunities within your organisation so they can make the most informed decision if and when that calling speaks to them.

By ensuring your business strategy includes plans to understand and meet the societal needs, ambitions and concerns that millennials care most about, you are proactively setting yourself up to engage younger generations and inspire loyalty. 

So here, we’ve put together 3 key takeaways for engaging and retaining millennials. 

Tip 1: Understanding why millennials would look to leave 

Understanding why millennials would look to leave employers provides an invaluable insight into how we keep them engaged. The following questions will stimulate some healthy discussion within your team about what you might need to review or implement within your organisation to help retain millennials.

  • What is the positive impact our organisation has on the community? 
  • How do we provide a motivating and stimulating working environment? 
  • Do we offer flexible working practices? 
  • What does a healthy work life balance look like to them? 
  • What are their views on diversity and the need for inclusion? 
  • Do we provide opportunities for development, training and ongoing mentoring?

Tip 2: Ongoing mentorship and personal development

Mentorship is a key factor of retaining this part of the workforce and it applies to millennials more than any other generation before. The number one critical success factor for engaging and retaining millennials is ongoing mentorship, training and coaching. These bright young adults thrive on education, personal development, and constant feedback. So formal training and professional development programs are paramount. This must include one-on-one coaching, mentoring, lots of feedback and reassurance.

Tip 3: Providing regular feedback

Positive feedback needs to be provided daily. Too often managers think it’s their purpose to catch someone doing something wrong. This is counterproductive and a backwards trap 21st century leaders fall into. Instead, we need to recognise when somebody is doing the right thing. This doesn’t mean we ignore subpar performance. We should certainly address this in our coaching and mentoring sessions. 

Using active listening skills and asking open quality questions will help them find the solutions. Rather than sharing our own viewpoints on what the answers should be, we should be seeking to support them to discover their own opinion, answers and solutions themselves. This will serve them infinitely better than us telling them the answers or what to do and demonstrate. 

The goals, values and ambitions of our millennial workforce have taught us a lot about how we conduct ourselves as leaders. They’ve inspired us to review our own leadership skills and how to deliver world class engagement; now it’s our turn to inspire them. We should focus on striving towards setting the leadership example for them, as they step into their future roles as 21st century leaders. 

To help you implement these learnings effectively into your business, we’ve put together two scenarios demonstrating the impact you as a leader can have to engage and retain your newest millennial, starting from day one.

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