Engaging the millennial employee is probably one of the toughest challenges of any HR department.

We’ve all heard or read about the millennial “stereotype”: smart, digitally-savvy and socially-connected but just as likely to feel entitled, be fickle-minded and constantly seeking work-life balance.

Millennials — loosely described as those born between 1981 and 2000 — are the least engaged part of today’s workforce. And as more millennials join the Singapore workforce — they will comprise 75 per cent of the employees by 2025 — the pressure is increasingly on employers to engage and understand what makes this group tick.

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Already, many companies have introduced HR strategies like flexible work cultures and better training programmes to retain talent. As a recruiter, I would advise my clients to go one step further by engaging new hires right at the interview stage.  

But doing so requires an understanding how the mind of a millennial typically works. Today, most millennials search for meaning within their jobs, reported the Human Resources magazine last month.

Connect right from the start

In your interviews, find out what motivates him or her. Learn what they do outside of work and their desires and passions. And then connect with them based on shared values.

For example, if your candidate expresses an interest in volunteering, talk about the corporate social responsibility programmes in your firm. Likewise, if he or she talks about wanting to pick up new skill sets, then talk about the company’s learning and development opportunities.

Remember to flip this around too. This is also the best time to evaluate if the millennial in question is a right fit for your company, team or office environment. For example, trying to shoehorn a millennial who values flexi-hours and the ability to work from home may not be a good fit for an environment that prioritises regular office working hours.   

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Beyond interviews, organisations also need to introduce programmes that would help millennials work better with managers and peers of different ages and backgrounds.  

According to the 2015 Aon Hewitt Workforce Mindset Study, millennials expect employers to provide good career and development opportunities and an office culture that encourages respect among managers and staff, recognition and open communication.

Unlike baby boomers or Generation Xers, millennials prefer to treat their bosses as peers. A recent LinkedIn survey said 28 per cent of millennials texted a manager out of work hours for a non-work related issue, compared with only 10 per cent of baby boomers.

This is why, from a HR perspective, the company needs to educate its line managers on how to best approach the needs of the millennial worker to avoid high turnover.

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Conduct 'stay' interviews

While millennials are often thought to lack drive, I personally don’t think this label is accurate after having worked with and supervised many of my younger colleagues. The key is for supervisors and companies to find out what motivates their millennial employees. If millennials are truly motivated, they will work harder than anyone else.

Besides introducing flexi-hours and better training and development opportunities, line managers can also consider conducting a “stay” interview. This concept is similar to that of an exit interview, except that the discussion is centred on what would make an employee stay. In other words, what they really enjoy about their work and how they could be better supported.

Not only do such interviews help companies to build trust and rapport with their employees, they are also a good tool for fine-tuning any engagement strategies currently in place.

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To engage millennials at work, consider

  • Connecting with them from the start. At interviews, find out what motivates your candidates. Learn what they do outside of work and their desires and passions. And then connect with them based on shared values.
  • Conduct 'stay' interviews. Find out what they really enjoy about their work and how they could be better supported.
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