Millennials are poised to make up over half of our global workforce by 2020.
It makes sense, then, that we're seeing a parade of articles and blogs "profiling" this emerging generation. Companies are curious about their new workforce, and they're starting to invest financial and human resources to capitalize on the Millennial generation's talent, workplace practices, and leadership interests. But what do Millennials think? What do they really want from their employers?
This is what we know -- Millennials seem to have an inherent interest in causes. This interest doesn't stop when they come to work each day. They don't check their causes and passions at the door.
Do employees prefer to volunteer through company-wide days of service? Do Millennial employees, in particular, see in the causes and organizations your company works with as partners?
These are questions worth answering for companies that employ or market to Millennials. Here are three things to keep in mind:
Millennials remember what you say and do -- from day one
From an employee's first day of work, you need to cultivate a partnership with him or her, involve them first-hand in company cause work. Instill a communal desire to be a company and workforce that actively "does good" and establish a team that is passionate about coming to work each day. Gather your group of new hires and engage them in a problem solving project or challenge for a local organization. Invite a nonprofit to pitch a need and have new employees perform a service activity together.
For some employers, their actual purpose or mission involves actively improving the world or a local community. For others, they have to provide more projects and activities outside of dictated job requirements for employees to feel they are making a greater impact. Start early, and you will build a model for the impassioned workforce you desire.
Don't force passion
Forcing any kind of value or philosophy on your employees never works and usually backfires. Have you ever been told to sign a birthday card for a co-worker you don't even know? No one enjoys being forced to care about something that they don't have a connection to. Don't force your employees to be passionate about a cause or service opportunity that only you care about. Millennials have preferences and strong opinions when it comes to how and why they support a cause. Instead of forcing employees to participate in cause work or designated days of service, partner with them to provide opportunities for them to use their own talents on a cause they really care about, but within your confines. Lay the foundation and allow them to dictate their own involvement. This is where a partnership comes in. Work with employees, create small group environments that foster peer projects, and allow Millennials to find meaningful cause work both individually and through a team.
Millennials in particular want to approach a project with their own talent. Foster opportunities for employees to work together for a nonprofit that they choose. Create digital channels for your employees to recruit and communicate to other co-workers for their cause or issue. They'll select causes that are close to their hearts, and continue that passion into their work.
Take a lesson from your marketing department and internally pitch cause work
Communicating a service project or cause initiative means selling an opportunity to engage in incredible work. Including volunteer opportunities as a side note in a weekly employee email or newsletter is not enough. When you speak to Millennials, you're speaking to a generation that is used to being pitched and sold to. Millennials spend more than $300 billion in consumer discretionary goods/services each year. They know there is a lot of noise constantly vying for their attention, and they will miss information if it isn't breaking through the noise and reaching them on a personal level.
How you describe and promote each project is imperative. Utilize the marketing and communication tools you use to promote services and products to consumers. Millennials respond to creative marketing communication. Identify the unique value proposition of the opportunity you want to promote, and tell them about it.
In the end, employers must capitalize on these passions, because Millennial employees are more likely to maintain positive interest in a company -- building better products, increasing productivity and advocating for their work -- when they are inspired.
In many cases, successful Millennial engagement and cause involvement means a total shift in mindset. Don't think in terms of what your company wants, but rather what the Millennial is seeking. Millennials are your partners in cause work.