Creating a Whole New Value Proposition for Millennials

millennials_and_social_mediaIn the HR world, it’s not new to hear the term “Millennial” and how many organizations today are rethinking their workforce practices to attract them — individuals born after 1980 and who have come of age since the year 2000.

Many people have asked why all of this intense focus on Millennials? What makes them so special over Baby Boomers and Generation X? Quite simply, this group already makes up the largest generation in the US, and by year 2020, millennials will comprise nearly 50% of the workforce.

This requires a focused response from employers in transforming their current work practices and HR programs to attract and retain this growing workforce, and especially important for industries such as manufacturing, construction and insurance who are key drivers of the economy but fail to attract as much as their sexier counterparts like technology or television / multimedia .

In the 2015 Millennial Leadership Survey conducted by The Hartford (full disclosure – this is my current employer), shows key industries driving the U.S. economy, including retail, construction and manufacturing, are failing to attract a major generation of leaders – the 80 million U.S. millennials (ages (ages 18-34, or those born between 1981 and 1997). Millennials tend to be more attracted to the technology (38) or even education (36), while only 4 percent are enticed to insurance.

Understanding what they want

Are millennials’ workplace preferences all that different?  Well, as many a Facebook status says, “it’s complicated.” At the foundation, their needs are similar but with slight nuances that befit their affinity towards connectedness and the fact that their behavior is colored by their experience of the global economic crisis and that this generation places much more emphasis on their personal needs than on those of the organization.

  • Uncomfortable with rigid corporate structures and turned off by information silos
  • Expect rapid progression, a varied and interesting career and constant feedback
  • Management style and corporate culture that is markedly different from anything that has gone before – one that meets their needs
  • Want a flexible approach to work, but very regular feedback and encouragement
  • Want to feel their work is worthwhile and that their efforts are being recognized
  • They value similar things in an employer brand as they do in a consumer brand
  • Continuously learn and move quickly upwards through an organization

In general, millennials are looking for similar things as previous generations – motivating and engaging work. But it’s no longer enough to simply have typical HR programs and offerings such as recognition, performance management, etc. Millennials are digital natives, they process things rapidly, they’re willing to express opinions more broadly and openly, and are also willing to move on if their expectations aren’t being met. This means that companies must look at how they deliver these programs and revitalize / repackage them in a way that address and fulfill expectations. In essence, what you provide as a company is just as important as how you provide it.

Optimizing your value proposition

So, at the end of the day, what does this all mean? Well, if you’re in the same situation as me, you’re probably looking to optimize your employee value proposition in anticipation of year 2020. If you’re hearing a lot about employer branding these days, this is a key reason why. Companies are realizing that, in order to attract millennials, they must first take a look at the current state of their employee value proposition, optimize it, and then market it to prospective (and current) employees.

If this sounds a little daunting, here are some suggestions on where to start:

Collaboration and Autonomy

A report from the Advisory Board Company, a consulting firm specializing in the healthcare field, shows that the drivers of employee engagement for millennials is autonomy. This reminds me of one of my favorite lines from a movie, “Imma peacock. You gotta let me fly!” Meaning, millennials want to be part of a collaborative work environment but they still desire some measure of independence on the job – they’re adults, and they don’t want to be micromanaged – you gotta let them fly.

Employee Voice

Not surprisingly, The Advisory Board study also showed that listening to the voice of the employee as an engagement driver.

It goes without saying that when companies take the time to solicit and pay attention to what employees have to say, employees feel as though they are a valued part of the organization (regardless of their age).

Town halls are no longer enough. It’s too much of a push vehicle. Instead, set up a system that pulls feedback from employees on a regular basis. More importantly, make sure they feel like their feedback is heard, acknowledged, and acted on. There is no substitute for employees seeing their suggestion create a change in day-to-day operations.

Coaching and Feedback

Nearly 10 percent of Fortune 500 companies have moved away from the annual performance rating because yearly reviews are no longer good enough. Everyone, and I mean, everyone, dreads the annual performance review where you hear all of the things you should have done all throughout the year. Instead, the shift is moving towards  360 degree evaluations and feedback, a model that resonates especially with millennials because it enables ongoing coaching and feedback that provides a much deeper insight into whether their skills are driving the organization forward or holding it back — satisfying their need for growth and development.

Flexible Work

According to a study published by the accounting firm PwC, Millennials rate flexibility as a highly cherished part of work. The report explained that “flexibility” has a broad definition; to some employees, it translates into the ability to work from home, while for others, they want to choose the device on which they carry out their projects and assignments.

Millennials are the first generation to come of age since the adoption of the Internet, so they feel comfortable using it in their daily lives. There are many jobs that still require a physical presence at work, but for those that do not, many companies are shifting towards contemporary work or flexible work as a key value proposition where work can be performed anytime, anywhere.

Clearer Communication

A survey conducted by the professional development training provider Dale Carnegie in February 2015 also highlighted that millennials want their managers to convey accurate information in a way that’s easy to understand. When they were in a workplace in which clear communication consistently took place, they were more engaged and motivated.

Look at the Individual

Understanding differences between generational groups can be helpful. Basing all of your assumptions on what motivates a particular employee based on his or her age is not.

Although there are certain generalizations that HR professionals and managers can make (employees want autonomy, recognition for a job well done, someone to take their feedback seriously, etc.), every employee is an individual. The exact formula that motivates one person will not always be the same for someone else. Don’t lose sight that each employee is unique, and they each have his/her own engagement drivers.


Contributing Author Bio:

This article has been co-authored by Elizabeth Lupfer and by the team at Grapevine Evaluations. Grapevine provides 360 degree feedback in an online tool designed for HR departments to easily create, manage and distribute employee evaluations for any sized organization.



Elizabeth is a strategic communications leader with nearly 20 years experience in both internal and external communications. She is a passionate advocate for developing communications that foster a stronger relationship between the organization and its employees. She is a global keynote speaker on employee engagement and HR communications. Elizabeth is a certified professional in Employer Brand through Universum Global's Employer Branding Academy.

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